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Why Can I See Better When I Squint?

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A senior man wearing glasses and squinting his eyes to see more clearly while holding a phone in his left hand.

Have you ever found yourself squinting to see better when reading small print or to make out a distant object? If the answer is yes, it may help to visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam to determine the cause. 

Squinting, or partially closing your eyes to help you focus better, is a common habit many people find themselves doing to enhance vision. Why? Squinting allows less light to enter the eye and changes your eye shape to help you focus when your vision is blurry. 

Let’s explore squinting further, what vision problems are associated with squinting, and what it can do to your eyes. 

Why Squinting Helps Your Vision

Squinting involves narrowing your eyes to a small slit. It also reduces how much light enters your eyes by decreasing the size of your pupil, thus enhancing the sharpness and clarity of the image you’re looking at. 

Squinting mimics the effect of a smaller aperture in a camera lens or a pinhole camera, creating a sharper image by reducing the amount of light that enters the lens. When less light enters the eye through a smaller opening, only focused light reaches the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).

What Vision Problems Cause Squinting?

Squinting eliminates or blocks unfocused light or blur from the following uncorrected refractive errors and other vision problems:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia): A symptom of nearsightedness or blurry distant vision is squinting to see clearly and persistent squinting in children. 
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia): A symptom of farsightedness or blurry close-up vision is the need to squint to see clearly. Squinting to maintain focus can lead to eye strain and headaches. 
  • Astigmatism: Squinting can be a symptom of astigmatism, but it doesn’t worsen your astigmatism. 
  • Presbyopia: Symptoms of presbyopia usually start around age 40 and can include squinting
  • Strabismus (crossed eyes): A symptom of strabismus is frequent blinking or squinting. 
  • Intense light: Squinting can be caused from intense lights, like bright sun or a camera flash. 
  • Unusual sensitivity to light (photophobia): Causes of photophobia include large pupils, dry eyes, side effects of certain medications, and eye injury. 
A young woman squinting her eyes to see more clearly while holding a book on her right hand.

Is Squinting Bad for Your Eyes?

Squinting can improve your vision temporarily, but it’s not a long-term solution. While it doesn’t cause any damage to your eyes or vision, squinting for prolonged periods can lead to headaches and eye strain. Squinting involves tensing the muscles around your eyes, which can cause strain and fatigue. 

Squinting can also cause wrinkles around your forehead and eyes, especially if you’re squinting in bright sunlight. When you squint in bright light, you’re not only straining your eyes but also exposing the delicate skin around your eyes to harmful UV rays. Over time, this can lead to premature aging and skin damage.

If you find yourself squinting frequently, it’s important to address the underlying issue. For example, if you’re struggling to read the small print, consider getting an eye exam to see if you need corrective eyeglasses, contact lenses, or laser eye surgery.

Other Ways to Improve Your Vision

Squinting may be a quick fix, however, there are also other ways to improve your vision that don’t involve straining your eyes. Here are a few tips to improve your eyesight and help you see better:

  • Improve your lighting: Poor lighting can strain your eyes and make it difficult to see. Ensure your workspace is well-lit, and avoid working or reading in dim or overly bright conditions.
  • Take breaks: If you’re spending a lot of time looking at a computer or phone screen, take regular breaks to rest your eyes to avoid digital eye strain. Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids can help to protect your eyes from damage and improve your overall eye health.
  • Exercise: Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risk of diabetes and related complications such as diabetic retinopathy
  •  Wear protective eyewear: If you’re squinting in bright sunlight, wear a hat or sunglasses to protect your eyes and skin from harmful UV rays.

Helping You See Better

There’s usually no cause for concern when you squint occasionally. If you’re squinting more than usual with accompanied vision problems, it’s best to have an eye exam. Eye exams can help to address the underlying issue and provide the appropriate treatment or recommendation from your eye doctor.

Book an appointment with Total Vision La Mesa to see if you need corrective lenses, surgery, or simple reading glasses for optimal eye health and vision.

Written by Total Vision

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