How the Eye Muscles Affect Vision Health

At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons we routinely treat a variety of conditions that affect the eye, but it is also important to understand that good vision relies on more than just the eye itself.  For example, there are six distinct muscle groups that are responsible for orienting and controlling the movement of the eyes, and when problems occur with any of these muscles, vision can suffer.  Understanding how these muscles affect your vision and what problems may occur can help you maintain your vision health.

How the Eye Muscles Affect Vision HealthAlthough the muscles around the eyes are approximately 100 times stronger than necessary to perform their function, prolonged focus can eventually tire them out, leading to a condition known as eye fatigue.  Activities requiring concentration on visual details, like reading, driving, or computer use, force these muscles to constantly make tiny adjustments in order to keep the central image aligned with the fovea centralis, a small area located in the center of the retina where color-sensitive photoreceptive cones are most densely concentrated.  This mounting strain can make the eyes feel heavy and irritated and in some cases can even cause headaches and blurry vision.  Because eye strain resulting from prolonged computer use is so prevalent, Computer Vision Syndrome is considered one of the most wide-spread workplace ergonomic issues today.

Problems with the muscles surrounding the eyes can also result in an irritating condition called blepharospasm, a repetitive, uncontrollable blinking or spasm of the eyelid.  Symptoms can recur for days, weeks, or even months, interfering with quality of life and causing emotional distress.  The underlying causes of these involuntary twitches are poorly understood, but they are most frequently the result of fatigue, stress, or the use of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine.  In some cases, however, a blepharospasm may be an indication of dry eyes, light sensitivity, pinkeye, or even a more serious neurological condition like Bell’s palsy or Parkinson’s disease.  Cases of persistent eyelid twitching should be carefully evaluated to determine what treatment options are most appropriate.

Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned and don’t appear to look in precisely the same direction.  One or both of the eyes may look in or out, or turn up or down, and the condition may occur all of the time or only sometimes, such as during stressful situations or illness.  In infants, strabismus may be congenital or the result of a disorder in the infant eye.  However, when it occurs later in young children or adults, it will cause double vision which can, in turn, result in the misaligned eye becoming amblyopic or “lazy,” which can permanently affect peripheral vision and depth perception.  Although strabismus can be treated by strengthening or weakening the surrounding muscles surgically, in cases where the misalignment of the eyes is caused by excessive farsightedness eyeglasses may solve the strabismus without eye muscle surgery.

The eyes are part of an intricate system, and only when all the elements work together is vision at its best.  If you have any concerns about the health of your eyes, or would like to schedule an eye exam, please contact Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay today to make an appointment. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear.