Yorkshire Times
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12:00 AM 4th May 2024

Optician Warns Stress Can Lead To Eye Twitches And Vision Loss

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
1 in 5 Britons older than 16 feel stressed every day, and nearly a third of them experience stress weekly, according to recent research.

Stress affects each person differently; it can cause insomnia, headaches, back pain, digestive issues, hair loss, a variety of skin disorders, including problems with our eyes.

Nimmi Mistry, a professional services optician at Vision Direct, explains how stress can damage our vision and provides tips on how to take care of your eyes when facing the issue.

How does stress affect the eyes?

Although stress numbers keep rising in the modern era, stress is a condition that humans have faced for thousands of years, so our bodies can naturally adapt to stressful situations.

However, continuous high levels of stress - known as chronic stress - can cause serious disturbances in the autonomic nervous system, which automatically regulates bodily processes such as your heart rate and breathing. Increased stress levels cause our bodies to respond by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Commonly known as “stress hormones”, cortisol and adrenaline are produced by our bodies' adrenal glands, which are situated just above our kidneys. Adrenaline is responsible for causing an increase in the pupil size (through stimulating the dilator muscles of the eyes) in a process known as dilation. This results in an increase in light sensitivity.

There are several eye disorders related to an increase in one’s stress levels:

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid margins and the nearby lashes. Most commonly causing irritation and itching of the eyes, this condition can cause transient blurred vision and dryness too.

Eye twitching (myokymia): Usually due to nothing sinister, this mild case of eye twitching may feel worse than it is. Rest and reducing stress levels seem to be the best remedy after eliminating the potential of underlying causes.

Eye Strain: This stress related symptom presents in many ways, including headaches, blurry vision and dry tired eyes

How to treat visual problems caused by stress?

Reducing stress levels is the key to reducing all the unwanted side-effects in our bodies, including visual problems.

However, if you're experiencing stress, you can try and follow several eye health tips to avoid visual problems:

1. Keep your eyes moisturised
As stress can cause dry eyes, it’s a good idea to keep them moisturised. The use of artificial tears, especially if you’re a contact lens wearer, is important to combat dry eye symptoms.

It may seem like an obvious tip, but keeping yourself hydrated keeps your eyes hydrated, too. Ensure you drink enough water (general guidelines are 6-8 glasses a day) and potentially more depending on any coffee and alcohol you drink, due to their diuretic effect.

2. Think about your diet
Along with hydration, a balanced diet is key. Incorporating foods high in antioxidants can prove to be beneficial. Vitamins rich in lutein and zeaxanthin found in high quantities of leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale can help to preserve vision. Some research also suggests Vitamins A and D, and omega-3 fatty acids aid in lubricating the eye and reducing dry eye symptoms.

Some foods which contain omega-3 fatty acids include:
Salmon (2,150 mg per serving)
Chia seeds (5,050 mg per serving)
Mackerel (4,580 mg per serving)
Walnuts (2,570 mg per serving)

3. Follow the 20-20-20 rule
Eye fatigue is another condition we can suffer from due to high levels of stress, particularly if you're suffering from work-related stress and your job involves a lot of screentime.

To combat its symptoms and relieve the stress on your eyes, you should follow the 20-20-20 rule. This involves taking screen breaks every 20 minutes to look at a fixed point 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

4. Try to stay active
An active life spent away from screens, along with a good daily rest, will give your physical and visual health the care it needs.

The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
If you take your physical activity outside, ensure you're protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays with a good pair of sunglasses.

5. Fix your sleep
According to a study by BMJ Open, people with poor sleep increase the risk of developing glaucoma and its progression. This common eye condition, affecting the optic nerve head (which connects the brain to the eye) has the potential to cause peripheral vision loss if not managed early. In addition, poor sleep can contribute to dry eyes and myokymia.

To ensure you're getting enough sleep, it’s worth following a good sleep hygiene. Avoid blue light exposure before bed such as use of mobile phones and reduce your caffeine intake prior to sleep

6. Remember to attend regular eye exams
It’s essential to have an eye test at least every two years unless stated otherwise by your eyecare professional. In addition, if you suffer from any of the above symptoms for a prolonged period, you should seek medical advice from your opticians or GP to prevent potential eye complications.