Our eyes are essential for our everyday lives, but that doesn’t mean our vision is always perfect. At some point or another, we may struggle to see something nearby or far away, causing us to squint in order to make it clearer.
Squinting isn’t bad for your eyes. It increases how well your eye focuses due to less light entering, allowing your eye to build a clearer image. While squinting itself isn’t a problem, it can be a sign of vision problems, like myopia (nearsightedness) or astigmatism developing.
If you find yourself squinting more and more often, you can schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist to determine what’s causing your vision problems.
Why Do People Squint?
Squinting itself isn’t a bad thing, and won’t damage your eyes. Your eye naturally refracts (bends) light through the cornea into the retina and your brain converts the light into an image of what you’re looking at. When you have difficulty seeing something, you may impulsively squint—this changes how much light enters your eye, which can change how it hits your retina.
By changing the focus of how light angles and enters into your eye, you’re changing your focus, similar to how a camera works. This can allow your eye to develop a clearer image of what you’re looking at.
Can Squinting Damage My Vision?
Squinting on its own won’t damage your vision. It simply temporarily affects how light interacts with your eye.
However, if you find yourself squinting often, it may be indicative of a problem with your vision, like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Extended screen time can also cause squinting due to digital eye strain.
Squinting can lead to headaches. This isn’t to do with it damaging your vision, though. When you squint, your facial muscles contract too much and strain to maintain your squinting. Headaches may also be caused by your eyes straining to properly build an image of what they’re looking at, or if they’re too sensitive to light.
Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a condition that makes far away objects look blurry. Due to a refractive error in the eye, the retina doesn’t properly receive the light needed to build an image. Myopia can be treated with the use of prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery (in some circumstances).
Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is a refractive error that makes nearby objects blurry or difficult to see. It’s caused by a similar issue as myopia—light doesn’t enter the eye properly, so your eye doesn’t receive a clear image. Hyperopia can be treated through the use of prescription eyeglasses, contacts, or a corrective surgery like LASIK.
Your eye’s natural spherical shape allows light to bend effectively through the cornea to the retina, which lets your brain build a proper image of what’s around you.
Astigmatism is the term used when your cornea’s spherical surface is misshapen.
There are 2 types of astigmatism:
- Regular astigmatism means that the cornea, while still misshapen, does have a uniform curve—just not the right one your vision needs.
- Irregular astigmatism means there isn’t a uniform curve. Rather, the curve changes from point to point.
Astigmatism can be treated through the use of specialty contact lenses, called toric lenses, which are designed to counteract this curvature issue.
As we age, our eyes continue to change. As adults hit middle age and older, it may become more difficult to see objects close up. Presbyopia is a change in the eye that makes it hard to see things like the computer screen, books, and newsprint, causing you to require reading glasses or multifocal lenses. Presbyopia can develop even if you have another refractive error, like myopia.
If you find you are squinting to see objects up close, you may be developing presbyopia.
What Do I Do If I’m Squinting Too Often?
If you’re squinting often, you may be developing an eye condition or refractive error. Squinting often, while harmless, can indicate that there’s a problem with your vision.