Eye strain from reading - could it be astigmatism, L/R difference, speed reading, print pushing, or something else?

Hi everyone,

I did some moderate speed reading over the weekend and immediately noticed eye strain build up. This was Saturday and I still feel it today (Monday). I’ve noticed that whenever I speed read, I get strain like this. I’m trying to figure out why it happens. Is it just something normal about speed reading in general, or is there another reason?

Here’s the details. I spent about an hour going fast through a text by taking in 4-5 words at a glance, about two fixations per line. The lighting was good. I did a bit of print pushing by keeping the text at the edge of blur, though not excessive. I figure this may be one cause of strain.

I’m a low myope (Around -2.5 range) and I didn’t wear any lenses while reading. But I do have astigmatism of -0.25 to -0.5, stronger in the left eye. I also have a spherical L/R difference in the same range, again the left eye is weaker. And whenever I get eye strain it’s usually worse in the left eye. This is making me wonder if the uncorrected astigmatism and L/R difference may be adding to the eye strain. Maybe these small differences get more pronounced with speed reading and any kind of precision close up in general. When I’m doing distance vision, these differences don’t seem to matter. But it’s a different story with close-up. @jakey suggested that some people may just be more sensitive and that seems right. Does anyone else have a similar experience to any of the above?

I’m considering getting reading glasses that just correct for the astigmatism and L/R difference. The goal is to eliminate eye strain as much as possible. Has anyone tried something similar?

I actually dropped astigmatism early on from all my lenses, but I think I might need to add it back in.

The article below has a bunch of interesting points. Print reading is a challenging task (apparently screens are worse) and these days there’s an epidemic of eye strain. Supposedly there are anti-fatigue lenses that are very helpful, they’re single vision lenses with limited added plus power (I think it’s basically a bifocal but they’ve used a computer to design the lens surface so that there’s a smooth transition between the single-vision part and the added plus part) so that the microfluctations of accommodation are covered within the lens. Meaning that to read your book you might have to accommodate 2 D (or if you’re print pushing you’re 0 D) but your cilliary muscle is bouncing around the target (+0.25 to -0.25 D) and making you miserable.

So you want something a quarter diopter lower than your differentials with an add of (+0.4,+0.6, or +0.8 D) so that these accomodative microfluctions don’t mess you up. Essilor has something called EyeZen, I can’t figure out who could sell it to me.


I’m guessing speed reading is more demanding than leisure reading, so you probably want to go for “anti-fatigue” rather than print pushing stimulus. Maybe you can bring the book an inch closer so that you’re occasionally out of focus but mostly in range when you speed read.

If you’re at edge of blur for leisure reading, you’re able to wait until your eye fluctuates into the clear with every heartbeat. With speed reading you’re probably forced to skip to the next line even when your eye was on the wrong side of the swing. Your eye is doing peaks and valleys, and its only in focus for you during the peak. If you go fast, you’re reading a line or two when your eye is out-of-focus from these normal microfluctuations.

So wherever your edge of blur is, I’d pull the book in 0.3 D for speed-reading.

So instead of 40cm edge of blur for -2.5 D, go with 36-37 cm (-2.8D) when you speed read.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to do print pushing while speed reading.
Similarly, I’m OK pushing the monitor a bit further for screening/ reading emails but I would bring the monitor to be just within the blur distance to review a complex excel table with thousands of fields.
When you are reading predictable texts it’s easier for your brain to deal with print pushing vs random plate numbers or figures and formulas in a table. With speed reading the predictability is blocked by the speed of info, in my opinion.
I think in situations when it’s not possible to do print pushing for longer time without getting eyestrain, it makes more sense just to find the furthest point where the activity stays sustainable with good lights and good posture. And then compensate such close up time by going outdoors for proper distance vision.