National Stress Awareness Day: Can stress cause eye problems?

Nov 07, 2018 in Eye Care

Man on laptop stressed holding nose and glasses

Modern life can be manic: we’re always on the go, always working, always rushing around. It’s no wonder we’re a stressed-out nation. But could stress also be harming our eyesight?

Stress is a fact of life. Some evidence suggests that limited exposure to stress can improve our health, but in a world of always-on emails, smartphones, long work hours and the demands of modern living, stress seems to be a permanent fixture. It’s no surprise to learn that 85% of UK adults regularly experience stress.

And that’s a problem: too much stress is bad for our health, with links to high blood pressure and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. That’s why mental health charity Mind is putting a spotlight on the condition with National Stress Awareness Day, on Wednesday 7 November 2018.

How often do we say we’re stressed out but fail to take the symptoms seriously? Here are just a few of the symptoms stress can cause. For the full list – and for ways to deal with stress – take a look at the Mind website.

  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilating
  • Muscle tension
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes
  • Problems getting to sleep
  • Headaches or chest pains
  • Feeling irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
  • Thoughts racing and you can't switch off
  • Feeling like you've lost your sense of humour
  • Worrying about your health
  • Feeling like you’re unable to enjoy yourself

Eye stress

What effect does stress have on our eyes? Eye stress is often confused with eye strain. Eye strain is something many of us will be familiar with: the result of your eyes becoming tired after concentrating on one thing for long periods of time, such as a computer screen or driving long distances.

The 20/20/20 rule is a useful tool to help manage some causes of eye strain – every 20 minutes, take your eyes away from the computer screen and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Stress-related eye conditions

The good news is that most eye conditions caused as a direct result of stress are temporary. A common stress-related complaint is an eye twitch. It’s an involuntary spasm of the muscles around the eye, and it can happen in one or both eyes. A regular, healthy sleep pattern is the best cure, and try staying away from stimulants like coffee.

Macular Abnormalities

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of sight loss in the UK. It usually affects the over 50s, and the older you get the greater the risk of suffering from the condition. But is stress a risk factor?

A recent study found that stress could be associated with increased inflammation, and AMD may also be linked to inflammation.1 Temporary macula swelling can occur in highly stressed individuals. Fortunately, this condition, called Central Serous Retinopathy, tends to resolve with no lasting damage.


If you’re regularly under stress, you need to find ways of managing it and trying to reduce your exposure to it – Mind has produced an excellent guide to managing stress.

Book your eye test today

If you’re worried that your eyes are suffering as a result of stress, or you’re simply overdue a routine eye examination, then book your eye test today. You can call us on 0800 40 20 20, book online or pop into your nearest Leightons branch.

1Jessica L. Teeling, Professor of Experimental Neuroimmunology