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What Causes a New Glasses Headache and What Can You Do About It?

Getting a new pair of glasses is like getting a new pair of jeans — you're going to wear them all the time, and they’re going to add so much style to your wardrobe. And like a favorite pair of jeans, you want your new glasses to be comfy. But sometimes they aren’t ... at least not at first.

Sometimes, new glasses lead to a new glasses headache. And by “sometimes,” we mean it’s actually pretty common.

It’s common enough that we’re willing to name a type of headache the “new glasses headache.” (Although it can happen with new contacts too, so eyeglasses aren’t necessarily the bad guy here.)

If you just got new eyeglasses and you’re experiencing headaches, it could be no big deal, or it might be time to go back to the eye doctor. We’ll explain what causes a new glasses headache, what you can do about it, and when to make a return appointment.

What’s Causing Your New Glasses Headache?

New glasses headache: woman holding her head

If you can figure out the cause of your new glasses headache, it will be easier to address the problem. Here are the most common causes of headaches from new prescription glasses.

Your Eyes Are Adjusting to a New Prescription

Your eye muscles are constantly at work trying to help you see. They focus and refocus the lens of your eye depending on the light conditions and the distance of the object you’re looking at. (That's right, your eyes have their own built-in lenses before you even put on your prescription lenses.)

When you start wearing glasses for the first time or when your prescription changes, your eyes have to learn to focus under new conditions. If you have the right prescription, they’ll be able to focus better, giving you better vision.

But as your eye muscles learn to focus under these new conditions, they’re working extra hard, which can lead to eye strain. It’s like when you learn a new exercise at the gym — at first, it seems hard and makes your muscles sore, but regular practice makes it easier, and you’ll barely feel it.

It’s the same for your eye muscles. The initial eye strain can lead to unpleasant side effects, like headaches or even dizziness, nausea, and blurry vision. But after an initial adjustment period, your eye muscles will get used to the new moves.

If you have a single-vision prescription — to adjust for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism — it should only take a few days for your eyes to adjust. But if you have multifocal lenses, like bifocals or progressives (which correct your near and far vision simultaneously), it can take longer.

Getting used to progressive lenses takes the longest, but your eyes should be fully adjusted after two weeks of wearing your new prescription eyeglasses.

Your Frames Don’t Fit Your Face

Every new pair of glasses includes two new parts: new lenses and new frames. The new lenses will affect how you see, but the new frames will affect how you look. And we want our new frames to make us look good.

To ensure your frames make you both look and feel good, you need to find glasses that fit. If your glasses are too small, they could pinch your nose or dig into the side of your head, which can cause headaches.

When your frames are to blame, you’ll notice soreness and red marks on your nose and behind your ears. But don’t worry, you don’t need to throw your frames out and start over.

An optician can adjust the fit of your eyeglass frames so they sit comfortably on your face and you no longer have to experience headaches.

Your Prescription Is Incorrect

Human error is real, so there’s a chance that you got the wrong prescription. If you don’t have the right prescription lenses, your eye muscles won’t be able to focus, no matter how hard they try. (And they will try!) This causes serious eye strain, which leads to headaches. You’ll likely have blurry vision too.

You can get an incorrect prescription for a variety of reasons. Maybe you weren’t paying close enough attention during your last eye exam and chose the wrong strength. Or your doctor might have accidentally written down the wrong numbers.

It could be that your prescription was recorded correctly, but your pupillary distance (the distance between the pupils of your eyes) was recorded incorrectly. Your pupillary distance determines the placement of your lenses within your glasses, so if this number is wrong, your lenses won’t line up properly with the lenses in your eye.

Yes, there are many reasons why you could end up with an incorrect prescription, but it’s much more likely that your eyes are just adjusting. So, give yourself two weeks to get used to your new glasses before you head back to the optometrist’s office.

Your Glasses Aren’t to Blame

It’s time to ask yourself the hard questions: Did your headaches actually start when you got new glasses? Or were you already experiencing them and simply hoping a new prescription would fix the problem?

Getting headaches from new glasses is common. But it’s also common to get headaches for dozens of other reasons that aren’t related to your eye health.

So if your headaches pre-date your glasses or don’t go away after you’ve checked your fit and prescription, you should speak to your general practitioner to rule out other causes of headaches.

How Can You Reduce Your Headaches as You Adjust to New Glasses?

Man using a blue laptop

Even if your headache is being caused by a normal adjustment period, it’s still annoying. Get rid of your headache pronto by taking these steps to reduce your pain and get your eyes comfortable again.

  • Only wear your new glasses: Don’t switch back and forth between your old glasses and your new glasses. This will just make your eyes take longer to adjust. Commit to your new prescription and the pain should pass in a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

  • Give your eyes a break: Eye strain occurs when your eyes are working too hard, so add extra eye care to your day by taking 10 to 15 minutes to close and rest your eyes.

  • Use a cold compress: Applying cold to sore muscles helps them recover faster — eye muscles included. Place a cold, damp tea towel or a gel eye mask over your eyes a couple of times a day to help reduce inflammation.

  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine: Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, and Asprin all help reduce headaches. So if your new glasses headaches are disrupting your day, you can take one of these medications until the adjustment period is over.

  • Add an anti-reflective coating: An anti-reflective coating reduces glare as you work on digital screens, which can help reduce eye strain. All Pair Eyewear lenses include anti-reflective coatings. If your new lenses don’t have this coating, ask your optician if they can add it.

  • Reduce digital eye strain: Staring at computer screens and smartphones all day increases eye strain, which can make your headaches worse as you adjust to new lenses. Try to reduce your screen time, follow the 20-20-20 rule, and use blue light glasses.

  • Have your frames adjusted: If you think your new frames might be too tight, have your optician adjust the fit so your glasses aren’t pinching your nose or the sides of your head.

When Should You See Your Eye Doctor?

Talk to your eye doctor if your headaches don’t go away after two weeks of consistently wearing your new glasses. But don’t hesitate to contact your doctor sooner if your headaches are severe and are disrupting your daily life.

If you still experience headaches after your eye doctor has checked that you have the right prescription and properly fitting frames, make an appointment with your general practitioner. Your headaches may be caused by a condition that isn’t related to your eye health.

While it’s okay to take over-the-counter pain medication to control your headaches as you adjust to your new prescription, you shouldn’t take it for longer than 10 days unless you consult with your doctor first.

Get Ahead of Your Headaches

Woman wearing a green sweater

At Pair Eyewear, we believe your cute new glasses should look so good it goes to your head. And if we had our way, your new glasses would only go to your head in a good way.

But alas, new glasses headaches are relatively common. If you're experiencing them, it’s most likely a sign that your eye muscles are working hard to adjust to your new prescription. The pain will likely pass in a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, take steps to reduce your eye strain and head pain. If the pain doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks, contact your eye doctor to make sure you have the right prescription.

Better yet, get your glasses at Pair — you'll get your choice of stylish Base Frames and an assortment of Top Frames to suit any occasion, and you can count on our return policy if your new glasses aren't the right fit. Try Pair Eyewear today!