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Nausea, Vertigo & Migraine Headaches: Is Eye Strain the Cause?

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A young woman with her eyes closed, sitting in front of her computer with her eyeglasses on the table, massaging her temples with both hands

Eye strain can be challenging to manage. Its uncomfortable symptoms can disrupt your productivity and cause other issues. The first step to getting to the bottom of your eye strain issues is to visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam

But what are some of the other issues related to eye strain? Let’s take a closer look at how eye strain can cause nausea, vertigo, and migraines.

The Effects of Eye Strain

If you find your eyes feeling worn out after a long day of work or typing out that last-minute essay for your philosophy class, you may be battling eye strain. Your eyes need a break just like the rest of your body, and when they don’t get that opportunity to rest, it can mean trouble for you.

We’ve become increasingly reliant on digital devices, and they’re present in almost all facets of daily life. The more we use digital devices, the more at risk we are of developing digital eye strain. Digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, occurs when you spend too much time on computers, phones, tablets, gaming devices, or other digital screens.

Some common signs and symptoms of digital eye strain include: 

  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Photophobia (Light sensitivity) 
  • Neck and back pain
  • Headaches

It’s not practical to permanently quit using digital devices, but making some minor changes to your workstation and screen time habits can help you find relief. 

Some tips to alleviate the effects of digital eye strain include: 

  • Adjusting the lighting of your setup to reduce glare, or purchase an anti-glare screen for your device.
  • Implementing the 20-20-20 rule: look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  • Adjusting your device’s font setting to make them larger and clearer to avoid squinting.
  • Investing in computer glasses that can shield can help reduce strain on your eyes.

Does Eye Strain Cause Nausea, Vertigo, & Migraines?

Eye strain can lead to potentially debilitating problems like nausea, vertigo, and migraine headaches. Eye strain isn’t the only eye condition that contributes to these issues—let’s take a closer look at how eye misalignment can also cause these issues.


Nausea causes stomach discomfort and the sensation of wanting to vomit. Nausea can stem from various causes, including: 

  • Extreme dizziness
  • Motion sickness
  • Certain foods
  • Effects of certain medical conditions

As nausea can be brought on by extreme dizziness, it can also be caused by eye strain. Motion sickness can cause the messages transmitted to the brain to not sync up with the senses, which can bring on nausea and dizziness.


Vertigo can happen at any age but is more common in people aged 65 and over. Because vertigo is a sensation of spinning dizziness, it can be brought on by eye strain and linked to nausea and migraine headaches. Common symptoms of vertigo can include: 

  • Lightheadedness
  • A sense of motion sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches 
  • Nystagmus, where the eyes move uncontrollably from side to side

A person with vertigo may feel very dizzy as if their head or the space around them is moving or spinning. 


Eye strain can cause severe headaches, also known as migraines. Any issue between the eyes and brain can also cause dizziness. Migraines can often be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on the side of your head. While not a common symptom, headaches can occasionally occur in relation to eye strain. 

It’s important to monitor your screen usage and give your eyes some time to rest during a long day. Eye strain headaches can be frustrating and disrupt your schedule, making it difficult to focus on work, school, or other projects.

How Eye Misalignment Contributes

Eye strain isn’t the only issue that contributes to nausea, vertigo, or migraines. Eye misalignment, also referred to as strabismus, usually develops in infants and young children, but older adults can also develop the condition.

Problems with the eye muscles can cause strabismus, and when the eyes are misaligned, the brain receives 2 different images. This eye misalignment can cause double vision and confusion, potentially leading to nausea, vertigo, and migraine headaches, depending on the severity.

Your optometrist can help get to the bottom of your eye strain symptoms and prepare a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate the nausea, vertigo, and migraine headaches you may be dealing with. 

A man standing in an off-balance position and pain showing on his face while his left-hand touches his left temple.

Find Relief with Your Optometrist

It’s important to address your eye strain to keep your eyes comfortable and happy. 

Scaling back your digital device usage can help, but implementing different screen usage habits can help you find relief. Eye strain can lead to severe issues like vertigo, nausea, and migraine headaches, so it’s essential to give your eyes a break when you can.

Book an appointment with your optometrist to address your eye strain concerns today. 

Written by Dr. Joseph Rich

Dr. Joseph D. Rich moved to Columbia shortly after completing his doctorate at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. Growing up and completing his undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, and business management at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO, Dr. Rich considers himself a full-fledged Mizzou fan and actively enjoys going to as many games as possible.
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