Stress can have a negative effect not only on your mood, but also on key body systems. There are several eye conditions in which stress has been attributed as the causative factor. Some, although annoying, are considered relatively harmless. Others can be more serious and lead to long term complications. Stress reduction techniques may help alleviate symptoms or prevent annoying conditions altogether.
Eye twitching, or myokymia, is defined as the involuntary twitching of the eye and is typically associated with stress. Eye twitching is generally considered harmless, yet annoying. The exact reasons why stress can cause eye twitching is unclear. In most cases, eye twitching will resolve on it's own.
Benign essential blepharospasm is a more severe presentation of eye twitching that can interfere with daily living. This is more common in women than in men and is thought to be triggered by fatigue or stress. There may also be a hereditary component to this.
Treatment of eye twitching typically is centered on stress management techniques and elimination of caffeine. If eye twitching continues for more than a week or becomes exaggerated to the point of involving other facial muscles or complete closing of the eye, you should seek medical attention to ensure there is not an underlying brain disorder.
Dry eyes can be a result of stress. When the body is undergoing a stressful situation, blood pressure is raised and the blood thickens. This can cause a decrease in circulation to the extremities, including the eyes. While typically not serious, dry eyes can be uncomfortable and can impair vision.
Treatment and Prevention
Stress reduction methods can help prevent dry eyes. Also, there are many over-the-counter remedies, such as eye drops and multi-vitamins, formulated specifically for eye health.
Eye floaters come in many shapes and sizes. While not dangerous, they can be quite irritating. Eye floaters are caused by condensation that occurs within the vitreous humor, or fluid of the eye. Collagen can accumulate in the vitreous humor and become visible as a speck, a web, a string, or any other odd shape. Floaters are especially visible when looking at a blank or white wall or a clear blue sky. While there are no clear studies proving stress as the cause of floaters, it is widely believed there is a correlation between stress and the development of floaters.
Typically treatment is not required for floaters, but relaxation techniques can help the body adapt to annoying floaters.
Central Serous Retinopathy
Central serous retinopathy (CSR) is a condition in which fluid accumulates under the retina causing loss of vision. Several case studies have been completed linking stress to CSR, and it is widely recognized as a stress related condition. Symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Bisual distortion
- Color distortion
- Poor visual acuity
The American Academy of Opthalmology notes that treatment of this condition may be difficult and typically involves taking measures to reduce stress. Most cases will resolve on their own after several weeks. A concern is that for many patients who experience central serous retinopathy, vision may not be as good after recovery. Close to half the people that have this condition will have it recur at some point. Follow-up examinations with an ophthalmologist are recommended, as long term fluid accumulation could result in a permanent loss of vision.
When to Consult Your Physician
It is good practice to have routine eye exams throughout your life. While many of these conditions are not dangerous and will resolve on their own, there are times when seeing your opthalmologist or primary care provider is warranted. If you are experiencing loss of vision, extreme headache or pain, or visual disturbances that will not go away, it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional.