If you deal with a lot of headaches, scheduling an eye exam would be well worth your time, even if only to rule a vision problem out as a cause. Headaches aren’t always tied to vision and every vision problem doesn’t result in headaches, but there is a significant link between the two.
Modern technology is wonderful in many ways, but one less wonderful thing about it is that the hours we spend staring at bright screens every day, whether for work or for fun, often cause digital eye strain. Symptoms include tired and aching eyes, blurred vision, trouble focusing, and even…drumroll…frequent headaches.
Digital eye strain doesn’t come exclusively from screens, either. An untreated vision problem like farsightedness (hyperopia), age-related farsightedness (presbyopia), or astigmatism can put a lot of strain on the eye, which must attempt to compensate. With astigmatism, the cornea has an abnormal shape that bends light in ways it shouldn’t, forcing a lot of squinting. Excessive squinting on its own can contribute to headaches.
In the cases of hyperopia and presbyopia, the eye’s lens focuses images slightly behind the retina instead of directly against it, making nearby objects look blurred. Attempting to read small print with these eye problems can literally turn into a headache. The older we get, the less flexible our eyes’ lenses can become, so this can even be an issue for people who never needed glasses in their first few decades of life.
Children with undiagnosed vision problems are just as susceptible to frequent headaches as adults, which is one more reason why every child should have a comprehensive eye exam from an actual eye doctor before they start school, not just a vision screening with the school nurse. Refractive errors like nearsightedness or farsightedness aren’t the only eye problems that can cause headaches, but kids are even less likely to make the connection than adults are.
When our vision changes, it tends to happen so gradually that we don’t notice for months or even years that our old glasses aren’t helping like they used to. In most cases, vision-related headaches are because of something as simple as an outdated prescription for their contacts or glasses!
In other cases, the connection between eyes and headaches can be more serious than an old prescription. Headaches can be a symptom of glaucoma, an eye disease in which the buildup of pressure against the optic nerve causes permanent vision loss. Cataracts (which develop as the transparent proteins in the lens of the eye clump together until they become opaque, clouding the vision) can cause headaches too. The best way to catch sight-threatening conditions early on is with regular eye exams.
No matter how busy our schedules are, finding time for a regular eye exam is still worth it, particularly if you’ve been suffering from frequent headaches and haven’t discovered the cause. At the very least, you’ll be able to cross eye problems off the list of potential causes if we rule them out at your next appointment!