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Pandemic Stress Can Change Our Eyesight

November 4, 2020

How have the last few months been for you? Regardless of the positives in your life, you’re probably baseline stressed. 

It’s normal to feel anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, or even scared right now. Colorado is experiencing both a pandemic and public protests alongside the compounding challenges of reopening schools, unemployment, and major wildfires not yet contained … oh yes, and we’re in the midst of an election battle.

It’s fair to say that Coloradans are carrying more stress with them on a consistent basis, but what is it doing to our bodies? 

We’ve all had that moment where we get some bad news and we can feel the stress take over our bodies. This is called “fight, flight or freeze” and your body moves into protection mode. 

Initially, your heart may pump faster as adrenaline moves through the body, your breathing becomes shallow, and your pupils dilate to enhance your ability to see the danger. Your body is preparing for a physical threat even if the stress is from a non-physical source like a difficult project at work or a spat with a friend. 

You may experience mild stress, or you may experience high stress. The eyes also experience a range of impact due to stress from mild discomfort to debilitating vision loss. 

Symptoms of Stress on Vision Health:

  • Tunnel vision – Loss of visual acuity in the peripheral vision. Feels like you can only see in front of you.
  • Light sensitivity – An intolerance to light. Feels like you have to close your eyes when experiencing light and there is discomfort. 
  • Eye twitching – Random spasms around the lid of one or both eyes.
  • Very dry or very wet eyes – Both of these can be caused by stress depending on your body’s response.
  • Blurry vision – This is usually mild when caused by stress.
  • Eye strain – Fatigue of the eyes may be caused by stress, but can also be caused by too much screen time.
  • Vision Loss – The stress hormone cortisol can damage the eye and the brain. Stress is also linked to causing diseases that can lead to vision loss including glaucoma. 

It’s more likely that your eye’s response to stress will be minor, but if any of these symptoms are impacting your quality of life or if the symptoms persist, contact Dr. Van Amerongen immediately.

Ideas to Lower Stress & Relax Your Eyes

  • Reduce your screen time for a few days to reduce eye strain and give eye muscles a break.
  • During screen time use the 20-20-20 Rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Participate in daily meditation.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Walk outside if possible.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get good sleep.

We know that stress impacts every system of the body including our eyes. Dr. Van wants you to know that the benefits of managing stress on a daily basis will not only improve your eye health but your overall health. Even picking one stress-reducing activity daily can help. What will you pick?

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