Many people take their vision for granted. They never think about what might happen if one day they suddenly could no longer see as well as they used to. But weakening vision is something that affects many people, even before “old age” sets in. It’s important to think about the ways in which you may overuse your eyes throughout the day and understand the risks associated with those activities.
There are a few things that most people do every day that can cause severe vision damage without even realizing it. Staring at a computer all day, not wearing sunglasses, poor diet, and not getting your eyes checked on a regular basis can contribute to decreased visual capabilities.
The number of people who use computers daily for a long period of time is increasing. As a result, their eyesight is suffering. Computer vision syndrome (CVS) as defined by the American Optometric Association is “a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use.” The symptoms of CVS include: eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain.
Sometimes working at a computer for an extended period of time is unavoidable. Try these tips if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer.
1. Get a comprehensive eye exam. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), people who work at computers often should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once a year thereafter.
2. Use proper lighting. Eyestrain often is caused by excessively bright light either from outdoor sunlight coming in through a window or from harsh interior lighting. When using a computer, the brightness of the lighting should be about half that found in most offices. Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades, or blinds. Reduce interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs or fluorescent tubes, or use lower intensity bulbs and tubes. If possible, position your monitor so that windows are to the side of it, instead of in front or behind it.
3. Minimize glare. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor.
4. Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen. Adjust the display settings on your computer so the brightness of the screen is about the same as your work environment.
5. Blink more often. Blinking is very important when working at a computer because it wets your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. Studies have shown that when working at a computer, people blink less frequently – about five times less than normal.
6. Take frequent breaks. To reduce your risk for computer vision syndrome and neck, back and shoulder pain, take frequent breaks during your computer work day.
7. Modify your work area. If you need to look back and forth between a printed page and your computer screen, this can cause eye strain. Place written pages on a stand next to the monitor. Bad posture during computer work also contributes to computer vision syndrome. Adjust you chair to the correct height.
Benefits of sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses is one of the best ways in which you can care for your vision. Sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection are the best to wear when you’re in the sun. UV light causes long-term damage to the inner structures of the eye, but wearing sunglasses can help prevent conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. A cataract is an eye condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, impairing vision. Macular degeneration is an eye disease in which the macula, a structure within the eye that allows you to see, gradually deteriorates, leading to decreased vision or blindness.
Diet and nutrition. What you eat is an extremely important part of the daily lifestyle choices you make. Foods you eat and the dietary supplements you take affect your overall health as well as the health of your eyes. Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables for optimum eye health. A diet high in saturated fat and sugar may increase your risk of eye disease. On the other hand, healthy foods, such as greens and fruits, may help prevent certain eye diseases and other health problems.
Regular exams. Routine eye exams are important, regardless of your age or your physical health. Eye exams are an important part of health maintenance for everyone. Adults should have their eyes tested to keep their prescriptions current and to check for early signs of disease. Eye exams for children play an important role in ensuring normal vision development and academic achievement. Tests done by licensed ophthalmologists or optometrists are the best for providing a comprehensive picture of your overall eye health.
Article from Academy of General Dentistry, March 2011