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Stress and vision

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When you are stressed, your eyes experience the same discomfort as the rest of your body. Everyday sensations such as tearing, dryness, watering and a feeling of sand in the eyes are the first signs of stress-related fatigue.

Consequences of stress

According to a survey conducted by the All-Russian Centre for Public Opinion Research, a third of Russians believe that anxiety and stress are the main causes of many diseases. Anxiety and nervous strain play a special role in the development of cardiovascular diseases, which are directly related to fluctuations in blood pressure. There is usually an increase in blood pressure and a significant increase in heart rate when under stress. The vascular system of the eye is no exception and reacts immediately to all stress factors.

Essentially, stress is the body’s special response to a strong external stimulus. This stimulus is called a stressor. External factors can be physical, mental or social. Physical stressors include unexpected situations on the road, sudden changes in temperature, overwork, lack of rest or sleep. Mental stressors include anxiety, family worries, financial problems and difficulties at work. Social factors include marital relationships, interaction with different social groups, problems with neighbours, death of a loved one.

Effect of stress on vision

When you are stressed, your blood pressure rises and the amount of adrenaline in your blood increases. This can only affect your vision. In moments of strong emotion, complete blindness can occur as an extreme reaction to a stressful situation. Psychology and physiology have identified two types of stress: “good stress” and “bad stress”. In the first case, positive stressors come into play and the state caused by them is called “positive stress”. Examples include falling in love, pleasant surprises, the birth of a child and many other pleasant events. An unfavourable situation is distress, which can lead to health problems such as eye disease.

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Stressful situations are projected to the brain through the senses. The brain reacts most quickly to negative factors. The body mobilises to eliminate the threat and the “hit or run” stress response occurs. This response was first described by the psychophysicist Walter Kennon. Kennon found that a sudden increase in adrenaline in the blood immediately causes rapid breathing, dilation of the pupils and tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision is characterised by the loss of peripheral vision and the ability to see images that only hit the centre of the retina. It is also associated with telescopes. Through the process of evolution, a simple logic has evolved to change the state of the eye. It is the dilation of the pupil, the main aperture for receiving light, that causes danger; the wider the pupil, the better a person’s orientation in space and thus the greater the chance of escape.

This logic worked in the absence of artificial light. Nowadays, under changed conditions, pupil dilation can lead to visual disturbances in the form of blurred real images and aberrations. Usually such visual disturbances and peculiarities only occur under severe stress and are temporary.

Respiratory rate and visual acuity under stress are closely related.
The state of hyperventilation caused by frequent breathing oversaturates the human body with oxygen, usually by 40-50%, and reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide. It is this imbalance that causes “flies” and “stars” to appear before the eyes.

Stressful situations have different durations.
Short-term stress can manifest itself in the following ways Prolonged exposure to unfavourable conditions can lead to further damage in the form of dry mucous membranes, eye twitching, increased intraocular pressure and eventually migraine headaches. All of these factors can lead to serious eye disease and vision loss.

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How can you avoid the effects of stress on your eyes?

Stressful situations are almost unavoidable. However, it is possible and necessary to learn how to resist them. You can prevent vision problems by taking a few simple steps in the stressful situations:

  • First, stay calm, spend some time alone and find a comfortable position;
  • Second, relax as much as you can;
  • Keep your eyes closed and rotate your eyeballs in different directions to relax your eye muscles;
  • Gently massage the bridge of your nose. Take a deep breath before opening your eyes.

This will help you to relax and reduce visual stress. Of course, it is better to avoid stress than to face it. As the old saying goes: Stay calm in any situation. Avoid disappointment if possible. Increase your optimism and smile. Take regular walks. Relaxation techniques such as massage, baths and aromatherapy can also help.