Your eyes may be the windows to your soul, but when overworked, they become doorways to pain, headaches and blurred vision. Unfortunately, eye strain is all too common when people spend countless hours staring into the glare of computer monitors and televisions.
What Is Eye Strain?
If you hold a dumbbell in your outstretched hand, your muscles soon get tired. The same happens to eyes when you overtax them. If the eye muscles that focus your vision don't have a chance to relax, you'll soon feel the strain. You may even have trouble focusing. And if you're squinting against bright sunlight, eye pain can come on very quickly.
Luckily there are several things you can do to lessen the problem. Rest your eyes as much as possible, and make some adjustments to your work and computer habits.
ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER
Turn the contrast on your computer monitor to high. You will find that letters and images become crisper.
Adjust your chair height so you're looking slightly downwards at the screen. Tilt the screen to meet your gaze.
Ensure your eyes are at least 50cm from the computer screen.
Adjust your computer screen or close the curtains or blinds near your work area so that you minimise the screen glare.
Clean the dust off the screen regularly to improve clarity.
If you're mildly short-sighted, try reading or viewing the computer screen without your distance glasses. Your eyes might be more comfortable that way.
Choose a bigger screen font so that your eyes don't have to work as hard to focus, or enlarge what you see on-screen to about 150 per cent, so that you can read it clearly.
If you wear bifocals, you can get neck strain from working at a computer. That's because with bifocals, the ‘reading’ lens is at the bottom of the glasses, so you have to tilt your head back in order to see the computer screen. Ask your optometrist to prescribe another pair of glasses that will give you clear vision at a distance of 50cm, so you can read what is on the monitor without having to tilt your head in an awkward way.
Lighting to relieve eye strain
When you're reading, make sure the light is adequate so you don't strain your eyes. The best results come with a flexible lamp directed so that the light falls on the page. Generally, a lower wattage in a reading lamp is more effective than a higher wattage in a table lamp. A 40 to 60-watt spotlight bulb should provide plenty of illumination.
Don't settle for a single reading lamp in an otherwise dark room. Make sure that other lights are also switched on. If there's too much contrast between the light where you're reading and the rest of the room, your pupils will constantly have to narrow and widen to adjust for the difference.
Avoid reading or working under fluorescent lights. They sometimes flicker, contributing to eye strain. The incandescent light from ordinary light bulbs is your best bet–or try natural daylight-imitating bulbs, especially for close work.
In any bright sun–even in winter–wear sunglasses. They will reduce eye strain that comes from screwing up your eyes. The best sunglasses have yellow, amber, orange or brown lenses. Light in the blue part of the spectrum is what makes us squint, and these lenses block it.
How to prevent eye strain
Whenever you're working on a task that requires close concentration, take a break every 20 minutes or so. Look at a faraway object–a picture on the opposite wall or a view out of the window–for at least 30 seconds. By allowing your eyes to shift focus, you give them a rest.
Try to blink often–every few seconds or so–when you're paying close attention to your television or computer screen. Blinking moistens your eyeballs and relaxes your eye muscles.
If you have a long task that involves prolonged staring, close your eyes periodically. Even if you just shut your eyelids for a few seconds, you'll get some immediate relief.
After the age of 40 or so, many people have trouble focusing on close objects–such as threading a needle or reading the list of ingredients or cooking instructions on packaged foods–a condition called presbyopia, or long-sightedness. If your distance vision is fine and both eyes are focusing equally, try buying a cheap pair of glasses from your local pharmacy.
Severe eye strain
If your eyes frequently feel strained and home remedies don't work, if your vision becomes increasingly poor or you're very sensitive to light, consult a doctor. Also, if dizziness or double vision occur suddenly and don't go away when you rest your eyes, be sure to consult your doctor promptly.
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