That’s right, if you experience a lot of headaches, it would be worth your time to schedule an eye exam. Not every headache is tied to a vision problem, and not all untreated vision problems result in headaches, but the connection between the two is significant.
Thanks to modern technology, we tend to spend hours a day looking at bright screens, and a common price we pay for these fabulous conveniences is digital eye strain. Typical symptoms include blurred vision, tired and aching eyes, difficulty focusing, and — you guessed it — frequent headaches.
Eye strain doesn’t have to come from screens, either. A vision problem like hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (age-related farsightedness), or astigmatism tends to put a lot of strain on the eye as it attempts to compensate. In the case of astigmatism, the cornea is shaped abnormally, so it bends light in ways it shouldn’t, leading to a lot of squinting. That alone can sometimes contribute to headaches.
With hyperopia and presbyopia, the lens of the eye focuses images a little bit behind the retina instead of right against it, which makes nearby objects look blurry. Trying to read small print quickly turns into a headache, sometimes literally. The older we get, the less flexible the lenses in our eyes tend to become, so this can even happen to people who never needed glasses earlier in life.
Kids with undiagnosed vision problems are as susceptible to frequent headaches as adults are. That’s just one of many reasons why every child should have a comprehensive eye exam with a real eye doctor, not just a school nurse with a big E chart. There could be a vision problem besides basic refractive errors (like nearsightedness or farsightedness) causing them headaches, but kids wouldn’t be able to make that connection for themselves.
The changes in our vision tend to be gradual enough that they’re hard to notice. It might take months or years to really register how much harder it is to see distant details or read up close. Most people who experience headaches related to vision problems simply need an updated prescription for their glasses or contacts!
The connection between eyes and headaches isn’t always as simple as an outdated prescription. One symptom of glaucoma (an eye disease that involves the buildup of pressure against the optic nerve, resulting in permanent vision loss) is headaches, and cataracts can also cause them. Cataracts develop as the proteins in the lens clump together, clouding the vision. Regular eye exams are essential for catching sight-threatening conditions early on.
We all have busy schedules and it can be hard to find space for something like an eye appointment, but it’s worth it, especially for anyone suffering frequent headaches with no idea what’s causing them. Why not cross eye problems off the list of possible causes by scheduling your next eye exam?