Wearing new eyeglasses may cause headaches as the eye muscles adjust to them. Poor fit, an incorrect prescription, and improper use may also cause headaches. A person can take various steps to manage or prevent headaches.
Headache is a pain in any part of the head. There are two types: primary headaches, where the headache is the main problem, and secondary headaches, which are due to another underlying condition.
Wearing eyeglasses may cause temporary discomfort and headaches. Eyestrain and eye diseases may also cause headaches. “Asthenopia” is the medical term for headaches secondary to eye fatigue or strain.
This article explores why glasses can cause headaches and its associated symptoms and treatments. It also discusses when to visit a doctor and other possible causes of headaches.
The eyes need to compensate for the changing visual demands when they use prescription glasses for the first time or have drastic changes to the prescription.
The muscles around the eyes and focusing systems need to readjust to adapt to the lens and work differently.
It typically takes a couple of days to a few weeks for eyes to adjust to new prescription glasses. It is best for a person to contact their eye doctor if they continue to experience symptoms, such as headaches, for longer than this time frame after wearing new prescription glasses.
People may experience several symptoms as their eyes adjust to the new prescription glasses, even when they have the correct fit and prescription. These symptoms may include:
- seeing things smaller than their objective size, which is called micropsia
- blurry vision
- image distortion
A person should not stop wearing their new glasses because of the discomfort. Instead, they should follow their doctor’s recommendations.
Repeatedly removing their glasses and alternating between their old and new glasses may make it harder for the eyes and the brain to adjust.
Glasses frames that do not fit correctly are another possible cause of headaches. Poorly fitting frames can put pressure on the temples or nose bridge, leading to a headache.
Poorly fitting frames may sit too close or far from the eyes and cause discomfort. A wrong pupillary distance, or the distance between the pupils, can also lead to headaches and other symptoms.
Glasses that do not fit properly may:
- feel loose around the ears
- slip down the nose
- pinch the nose bridge
A person can go back to their eye doctor and have their frames adjusted to achieve the correct fit.
An uncorrected refractive error may also cause headaches. A
A headache may also occur if a person wears glasses for a purpose other than their intended use. For example, glasses worn for distant vision and reading may be ineffective for computer use. Instead, a person should use glasses that meet the demands of their activities.
The type of headache refractive errors can cause differs between people. A
Other symptoms of refractive errors may include:
- double vision
- hazy vision
- glares or halos
- difficulty focusing and concentrating
Learn more about eye problems.
The best way to treat headaches from refractive errors is to get comprehensive eye exams regularly and treat the underlying eye problem.
It is best for a person to contact their eye doctor if they feel that their glasses are not providing the right corrective measures, or if they feel they would benefit from glasses for additional uses.
If a person wears glasses for computer work and they experience headaches, the headaches may actually be due to eyestrain rather than the glasses.
It is also possible the glasses they wear for computer work are not fit for this purpose. Their eye doctor can advise on whether they recommend a different prescription when using digital screens.
Eyestrain happens when the eyes get tired from intense and prolonged use. Another term for eyestrain is “asthenopia.”
It occurs when eye muscles continually adjust to focus, which overworks them. A
- itchy eyes
- difficulty concentrating
Digital eyestrain, also called computer eyestrain or computer vision syndrome, is a type of eyestrain that occurs in people who use digital electronic devices, such as computers and tablets, for prolonged periods.
A 2020 study found anywhere from 12–41% of participants experienced headaches, neck pain, tired eyes, and overall tiredness while using tablets and smartphones.
Learn more about digital eyestrain.
Eyestrain can cause eye discomfort and headaches. Because it happens due to strained eye muscles from trying to correct visual acuity, it is not usually present upon waking up and tends to worsen with prolonged eye use.
Below are other ocular and non-ocular symptoms that often accompany digital eyestrain:
- dry eyes
- itchy eyes
- feeling like there is something in the eye
- blurry vision
- watering eyes
- stiff neck
- general fatigue
Uncorrected visual problems, such as astigmatism, and refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, may also contribute to eye symptoms when using a digital screen.
It is best for a person to contact a doctor for an accurate diagnosis if they experience symptoms of eyestrain.
A person who works in front of the screen can reduce eyestrain by taking frequent breaks. Following the 20-20-20 rule may help. This rule includes taking a break every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Minimizing glare from screens where possible may also help.
Getting regular eye exams can help prevent underlying eye conditions from causing headaches. This can help ensure a person has the correct prescription. An eye doctor may need to adjust a person’s prescription over time as their vision changes.
An eye doctor can also help ensure that glasses fit comfortably and that they are not too tight or put too much pressure on the temples.
Preventing eyestrain may also help reduce headaches. The best way to prevent this is to modify the computer and how the person uses them. A person can do this by:
- placing the screen 15–20 degrees below eye level and 20–28 inches from the eyes
- placing any reference materials above the keyboard and below the monitor
- avoiding overhead glare from windows and lighting
- considering using a screen glare filter
- sitting in a chair that ensures the feet are flat on the floor and arms at 90 degrees and resting comfortably on the table or desk
- following the 20-20-20 rule, which involves looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes of computer use
- making sure to blink frequently
It is best for a person to contact their eye doctor if they frequently or persistently experience headaches when wearing their glasses.
The eye doctor can ensure the prescription and the fit of the glasses are both correct. They can also advise when the glasses should be worn, such as when reading or doing computer work, and recommend ways to reduce headaches.
Many eye conditions may cause headaches other than wearing eyeglasses. These include:
- angle closure glaucoma, which refers to fluid at the front of the eye that cannot drain properly
- giant cell arteritis, which refers to swelling of the arteries that run along the temples
- stroke, which can cause:
- vision changes, such as double vision
- droopy eyelids
- severe headache
A person should contact their doctor if they have concerns about any of the above conditions. These can be serious conditions that require immediate treatment.
Wearing glasses can lead to headaches due to an incorrect fit or prescription. It can also happen due to improper glasses, such as wearing long-distance glasses for close-up computer work. Eyestrain can also cause headaches.
Regular eye exams can help ensure a person wears glasses with the correct prescription and fit. They can also help identify and treat any underlying eye conditions that may lead to headaches.
People who experience persistent symptoms should consult their eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. Other serious conditions may cause headaches, so contacting a doctor about one’s symptoms is essential.