Stress-induced eye problems explained

The impact of stress on the body has become more widely recognised in recent years. Instead of bypassing worry and anxiety as mental conditions, we now recognise the detrimental impact these emotions can have on the body. The eyes are no exception. High and continuous levels of stress can cause both short-term and long-term vision complications. While reducing stress entirely may not be possible, understanding stress-induced eye problems is the best route to reducing discomfort in the future.

How does stress impact eye health?

When we feel stressed, scared or worried, our body releases specific hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. These are meant to send our body into “fight or flight” mode – an ancient protective measure that allows us to be ready to deal with potential threats. These hormones are healthy in small doses and pass through our bodies with little issue. It is when we become stuck in a consistent spiral of stress and worry that they become detrimental. This can lead to problems, some of which we explore here.

Increased intraocular pressure

Elevated eye pressure is associated with conditions such as glaucoma, but can also be triggered by excessive stress. When our body experiences a flush of cortisol and adrenaline, blood vessels constrict to tense muscles and allow the body to flee quickly. Changes in the microcirculation of blood around the eye and the brain can push blood pressure up, accelerating vision deterioration.

Eye twitching

This hormonal flush can also cause twitching and micro-movements in the eye. The same muscle tension that pushes eye pressure upwards also impacts smaller muscles around the eyelid. This sensitive area becomes overstimulated, causing the muscles to twist and spasm for a short period of time. While it may not be painful, eye twitching can be incredibly distracting and irritating to deal with.

Blurry vision

Another symptom linked to increased eye pressure is blurry vision. There is also a link between hyperventilation during very high periods of stress and an imbalance of carbon dioxide and oxygen within the blood. Combine these two factors together and you have an increased risk of blurry vision that has nothing to do with your eye’s actual ability to focus.

Light sensitivity

A less commonly known symptom of high stress is heightened light sensitivity. When your body perceives a threat, it dilates your pupils to allow in more light and increase your visibility. Consistently dilated pupils allow an excessive amount of light into the eye, causing uncomfortable sensitivity. In extreme cases, known as photophobia, this flood of bright light creates extreme discomfort and pain.

Dry eyes

The hormones released when the body feels stress are strongly linked to inflammation. In the eye, this negatively impacts tear ducts and prevents proper lubrication. For you, this means dry, itchy and uncomfortable eyes that can impact everyday tasks significantly.

The excessive stressors of a modern and fast-paced world can be challenging to manage, so it’s important not to overlook your eye health. At The Eye Establishment, we have a team of highly trained ophthalmologists who can work with you to reduce stress-related eye conditions and protect your vision in the long run. We’ll assess your overall eye health as well as providing an up-to-date glasses prescription. If you’re looking for new frames or glasses lenses, visit our glasses shop for expert advice.