Do I Believe My Eyes?
By Anna Sachse
Not all of us are overweight. Not all of us smoke. Not all of us fail to get enough sleep. Not all of us forget to wear our sunscreen. There are a lot of unhealthy things in the world that don’t apply to all of us here in SoCal; however, there is one thing that probably applies to most—eye strain from computer use.
According to optometrist Dr. Marc Grossman, OD, LAc, cofounder of Vision Works, Inc., more than 50-percent of computer users experience eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision and other visual symptoms related to sustained use of the computer. This type of stress on the visual system can also cause body fatigue and reduced efficiency at work. We were born to have hunters’ eyes, states the Vision Works website, which we needed for spotting game or danger at a distance. But over the last few decades, much of both our work and our recreation (Internet, television, video games) has shifted the focus of our vision to an arm’s length. Dr. Grossman, a fan of combining traditional with alternative treatments for eye care, says having more close-up visual tasks often produces problems such as nearsightedness, suppressed vision in one eye, poor eye teaming and now, some research is finding, a tendency toward glaucoma.
Now, I do have to say that the Western-medicine-oriented Mayo Clinic explicitly states that eyestrain resulting from computer use, although bothersome, isn’t thought to have serious or long-term consequences. They clearly take it less seriously than Dr. Grossman (who does make money off of helping people with their eyestrain problems), but they are also a little less open-minded about what is unhealthy in our society. I suppose the choice is up to you, but when it comes to the ability to see, do you really want to play with fire?
Regardless, all parties agree that eyestrain is uncomfortable and distracting. Common signs include: sore, burning, itching, watery or dry eyes; blurred or double vision; headache and sore neck; difficulty shifting focus between a computer monitor and paper documents; color fringes or afterimages when you look away from the monitor; increased sensitivity to light; and changes in glasses prescription
I’m pretty sure all of us computer users have been there, but here’s some ideas for “done that” computer-related eyestrain remedies.
First, advises Dr. Grossman, your computer should be set up in an eye-friendly way: the computer screen slightly below eye level (about 20 degrees); screen brightness and contrast consciously adjusted for maximum viewing comfort; workstation lighting at a 10:3 ratio (screen characters 10 times brighter than the screen background; room illumination three times brighter than screen background); glare and screen reflections eliminated by moving or tilting the computer or getting an anti-glare screen; operator facing away from windows or bright light sources; and screen cleaned regularly, as dust adds to glare.
The Mayo Clinic suggests periodically taking eye breaks by forcing your eyes to focus on something other than your screen. Try this exercise: Hold a finger a few inches in front of your face and focus on it as you slowly move it away; focus on something in the distance and then back to the finger; slowly bring the finger back toward your face. Shift your focus to something farther than eight feet away and hold your eyes there for a few seconds. Repeat three times, several times a day.
They also suggest blinking often in order to lubricate and refresh your eyes, as well as giving yourself a five-minute rest every hour in which you can do other work, such as phone calls or filing.
Now stop reading this article and go for a walk!