Whether you’re exposed to bright light or trying to see more clearly, everybody squints, typically, as a response to blurry vision. It doesn’t harm your eyes, but to stop the squinting reflex, a comprehensive eye exam can help detect the cause of your vision problems and update your corrective lens prescription.
Squinting can help improve vision in the short term. However, you’ll likely need new glasses, contact lenses, or other treatments for sustained vision clarity.
What Causes Squinting?
When you squint, you partly close one or both eyes to see clearly, and for a few seconds, it works. Squinting at your alarm clock or phone screen in the middle of the night can be expected, but squinting to make out traffic signs, the television, or words on a page are signs of a vision condition that can be corrected.
There are 3 primary reasons why people may squint:
Refractive errors, particularly myopia, are a common cause of squinting behavior. In those with astigmatism, it may improve distance or near vision because of the horizontal nature of squinting. For a short time, squinting may decrease vision distortion related to astigmatism.
Presbyopia, a common condition among those over 40, is the deterioration of near vision over time. Untreated, those with presbyopia may squint to see close up and read small print.
Those with light sensitivity, or photophobia, may squint reflexively when exposed to bright conditions. Something as simple as stepping outside on a sunny day can cause squinting for some.
Why Does Squinting Improve Your Vision?
Squinting can help enhance visual acuity, which is why it’s such an automatic response. But how does squinting affect your vision? Squinting alters your vision in 2 ways:
- It changes the shape of the eyes
- It limits the amount of light that enters the eyes
The shape of your eye’s lens and cornea lets light pass through the eye, and when you squint, you slightly alter their shape, changing the way light focuses on your retina.
When your eyes are open, your pupils allow light to enter from every direction. The rods and cones of your eyes, responsible for low-light vision and color, process all these waves. When you squint, you limit the amount of light entering your pupil and the incoming angles, effectively focusing your vision.
How to Decrease Squinting
To decrease the need for squinting, your optometrist can help identify the cause of your blurry vision. A detailed eye exam is the best starting point.
Uncorrected Refractive Errors
If you squint because your distance vision is distorted, you may have nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Your optometrist can help correct these vision problems with a thorough eye exam and refractive error tests to prescribe lenses to improve visual acuity.
Contact lenses and glasses can help overcome blurry vision, but a laser surgery consultation can help you learn about long-term options if you’re seeking a more permanent solution.
Photophobia is a symptom that can indicate other problems in your eyes or general health. Eye conditions that are commonly linked to light sensitivity include:
- Dry eye disease
- Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pink eye
- Uveitis, or swelling inside your eye
- Corneal abrasion
- Retinal damage
Photophobia can also be a symptom of migraines, brain injuries, headaches, or mental health conditions, like agoraphobia.
Ultraviolet (UV) blocking sunglasses can help protect your eyes from damage and limit sunlight exposure if you’re particularly sensitive to light.
In the event your light sensitivity is present with other symptoms, see your optometrist as soon as possible for an eye exam.
Squinting because of presbyopia can indicate a need for reading glasses, bifocals, multifocal, or progressive lenses. Your eyes will change as you age, and even if you have the best prescription for your distance vision, an eye exam to test for presbyopia is recommended after age 45.
Start with an Eye Exam
Everyone’s vision becomes blurry in certain conditions, but chronic squinting may indicate you need corrective lenses to improve vision quality. Whether you’ve never had glasses or need an adjusted prescription, contact the team at Dr. Blahd, OD to test your eyes for refractive errors and preventative eye care.