Why Do My Glasses Give Me a Headache?

In this article, you learn why your glasses could give you headaches and how the glasses need to be optimized to get rid of the problem.

The reason why you get headaches with your glasses are the following.

  • Lenses sit decentered in front of your eyes
  • The prescription was not measured correctly
  • Your eyes do not play well together
  • The frame was not adjusted well

All those mentioned factors can be the reason why you get headaches or a combination of them. Let us have a closer look at why these causes could lead to headaches with your glasses.

Why Decentered Lenses Could Lead to Headaches With Your Glasses?

Every lens has an optical center that should be positioned right in front of your eyes. If this happens you can look straight ahead and your visual experience will be perfect. You enjoy the best visual acuity in combination with a very relaxed vision.

However, if those optical centers are slightly mispositioned they end up not sitting in front of your pupil. In such a situation most people still see good but the glasses feel somehow taxing on the eyes of the wearer.

Brause if the lenses are mispositioned the light falls into your eye in a deviated way. This forces the eye muscles to compensate and to adjust your eyes to the mispositioned lenses. An extra muscle tension is required to do this.

Some people do this by compensating the decentered lenses with more muscle tension in the eyes but others compensate with a slightly rotated head to the side up or down. Or in some cases even in an oblique way.

When we talk about an higher muscle tension to compensate for this misalignment we talk about the muscles surrounding your eyeballs as well as in your neck or shoulders.

The easy solution of course would be to just get new lenses which are positioned with the optical centers right in front of your pupils.

What Happens When the Prescription Was Not Measured Correctly and Why This Could Lead to Headaches?

When you wear glasses the goal is to give you the best visual acuity while your eyes are in the most relaxed state. If the prescription is not right this statement will not be true. The result will be:

  • Only one eye sees clearly at a time (if only one eye has the right prescription)
  • Both eyes see blurry (When both eyes have the wrong prescription)

In some cases, a wrong prescription is not immediately obvious to you. The reason could be the other eye compensating.

Usually, if the lens power is wrong on one side your brain favors the visual experience from the eye with the right lens power. In such a case the prescription feels off and only by looking with one eye at a time you will notice if something is wrong.

When you wear those glasses usually something feels not right and oftentimes you feel your concentration drop off earlier. But there is also the possibility for you to see clearly even though the prescription is wrong or too low.

In such a case you could experience headaches because of a strained feeling. Lets say you would need +3 diopters of lens power to be optimally corrected.

But in your glasses, only 2 diopters are built-in. You can compensate for this if you are young. But the muscle in your eyes needs to work harder to compensate for the missing lens power in your glasses. The result would be a clear vision that feels strained.

Especially if every distance is clear but in the reading distance your eyes need to strain unnaturally. Chances are high lens power is too low.

When astigmatism is measured wrong you can spot this mistake by little double contours or shadow-like effects. Of course, this could lead to headaches.

Why You Experience Headaches With Your Glasses If You Need Two Different Lens Powers

In some cases, everything went fine during the measurements but when it comes to using your new glasses you experience problems like:

  • You can see clearly in a certain head and neck position
  • Double vision when performing eye movements
  • Headaches

If you experience the mentioned problems you have probably two different lens powers built-in. Looking through those lenses is totally fine during the testing environment in which you just look at the chart for the eyes straight ahead. But of course, I must admit as an optician this does not mimic the real use during the day.

Because in the real world you perform eye movements constantly scanning your environment. Even when you do not seem to perform eye movements you do them in a very slight way.

And when you look around you will experience side effects depending on how high the difference is in needed lens power between both eyes. Those side effects are called prismatic effects and describe how much the picture gets deviated for each eye. Let us look at an easy example that could lead to headaches.


In this case the wearer could experience problems if the lenses would be built in correctly for example with aspheric lenses. When it comes to the centration they require the wearer to raise the chin during the centration so the tilt of the frame form the side gets to zero.

Depending on how tilted the frame was this requires you to tip your head back more or less excessively. But one thing is clear. As soon as you raise your chin you will look through spots in the lenses that are lower than the actual ones you are using when driving.

Because obviously if you are driving or walking around your head position goes back to normal and you are looking through spots through the lenses that are higher than the optical center of the lenses. If this happens the picture gets deviated for both eyes in different ways. This means one eye sees the street a little lower compared to the other.

This can lead to headaches. Because it is hard for the eyes to compensate for this deviation in height of the picture. The solution would be a spherical lens design perfectly centered in front of the pupils when you look straight ahead in a natural posture.

The important point here is to center the lenses so you do not experience a different deviation in height for both eyes.

This can be handled with single vision lenses easier compared to progressive lenses or bifocal lenses. Because as you saw in this example a repositioning solved the issue.

But this spot without the deviation is positioned in progressive lenses where you already have reading support. So it can not easily be repositioned. But what could be done this deviation can be reduced to a certain extent with shorter progressive lens design.

This way the optimal spots for distance vision and reading get closer together and you have no need to perform unnecessary wide eye movements that are tied to the mentioned deviation of the pictures. In such a case the probability for headaches in combination with different lens powers for both eyes gets minimized.

The same is true for bifocal lenses. All this information blends together with neck pain and progressives where I have an article here for you and even vertigo and progressives (You can read more here).

What If Your Eyes Do Not Play Well Together?

In most cases, this means your brain can fuse the pictures of both eyes into one visual experience but an imbalance in the eye muscles that drive eye movements hinder a relaxed visual experience. Depending on how big the imbalance is people will notice nothing, headaches, or diplopia.

Oftentimes in those cases, prisms can be a valid solution to reduce headaches and diplopia. Because those lenses are specifically designed to deviate the light so both eyes can play well together again.

Prism lenses can be directly built into your glasses. This way you will enjoy the best vision. However, if you want to test prisms a fresnel prism foil can be applied to your existing glasses to check if prisms are the solution here.

In some cases, they are applied temporary and in other cases, they are a good solution to wear them full time. However, this topic is best discussed with your eye care professional. Depending on the optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist prisms get measured differently.

So seek someone who does the tests on a daily bases to get optimal results in is specialized in this topic.

All this information here is general information about what could to headaches and problems with your glasses. But this article is no substitute for a visit at your eye care professional.

I wish you a great day.

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