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Feeling Stressed? Here’s How It Might Affect Your Vision

Stress relief

When we get nervous or stressed out, our body enters a state often referred to as “fight or flight.” Back when we were hunter/gatherers, this would have been the system that made changes within the body to increase your likelihood of survival in the face of a threat. Your heart rate increases, your muscles tense, your digestion slows, and so on. Today, though we rarely face actual threats to our lives, we have work, school, traffic jams, and other stressors that bring on these same reactions. But how does this affect your vision?

Fight Or Flight and Your Vision

When our fight or flight response is triggered, it can cause a number of changes to our vision. Our eyes point slightly outward, our short-range vision is decreased, our pupils dilate to allow more light in, and our peripheral vision narrows. All of these changes were likely useful as hunter/gatherers, when they helped us better see threats and scope out escape routes to get away, but they tend to get in our way in today’s world.


Difficulties you may experience due to stress and your fight or flight response include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the eye during near work, especially on computers
  • Decreased reading speed and blurry near vision
  • Increased sensitivity to bright lights

You may also find that you lose things more often, even if they’re right next to you, where you should be able to spot them easily.

Driving becomes more difficult as well, as you may be at higher risk of visual overload, in which the brain has a hard time processing everything it sees.

Want to know how else stress might affect your vision, and how we can help? Visit our Lewis Center eye doctors at Professional VisionCare today!


Are stress-related vision problems permanent?

Most vision problems related to stress are not permanent. Once your stress levels go down, your body will leave fight or flight mode and all the systems of your body will return to normal. This includes your vision. Your peripheral vision will broaden, your eyes will no longer be dilated, and you should experience normal vision.

Can stress cause any long-term issues for my vision?

Yes. Stress can cause symptoms of dry eye syndrome such as red, itchy, watery, or gritty-feeling eyes. In extreme cases, dry eye syndrome can cause scarring on the eyes  vision loss if left untreated. It can also worsen existing vision problems, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.

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