November 1, 2009

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Vision Improved

Tired eyes? Relief is in Sight

By Carolyn Campbell

November 1, 2009

As a Verizon tech support customer service agent, Laura Stott works on a computer eight hours daily. And as a student at University of Phoenix, she’s online for about another hour and a half each day. If her eyes become tired, she takes a break from the computer. Dr. Nick Mamalis, professor of ophthalmology at the Moran Eye Center, explains that computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a problem for many people who spend more than two hours on a computer each day. Common symptoms include headaches, tired eyes, focusing difficulties, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain. “People get significant fatigue while working on a computer all day,” says Mamalis. “When you concentrate on a computer screen, there is a tendency not to blink as much.” He adds that during computer work, patients will say that all the words seem to run together…The eyes feel tired and vision is blurry. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help this situation,” he explains. Take regular breaks. It’s no secret that executives spend hours at work, often staring at the computer screen. Mamalis says that simply taking small breaks every 20 minutes can significantly improve eye stress. He adds that deliberately blinking will also lessen eye fatigue. When on that break, Mamlis recommends focusing your eyes toward a faraway object and then toward a close object. “This works especially well if there is a window in your office,” he says. “Looking far away relaxes your near focus and can relieve some of the fatigue.” Keep your eyes moist. As a senior librarian for collection development, Suzanne Johnson works on a computer for approximately six hours daily and uses eye drops to keep her eyes moist. Mamalis recommends using simple artificial tear drops—not a medication that gets the red out—to prevent dryness. Look for preservative-free tear drops. “If you use tears several times a day, even the preservative itself can irritate the eyes,” says Mamalis, adding that while eye dryness is usually mild to moderate, prescription eye drops are available to treat severe dry eyes. Consider computer glasses. Many people in their 40s and 50s begin noticing reading difficulty, Mamalis says, adding that reading difficulty means it’s time to consider glasses. “As we continue to age, reading at a computer distance also becomes blurry,” says Mamalis, explaining that computer screens are usually at arms length from our eyes, farther away than the normal reading distance. “That is when computer glasses—prescription glasses designed to help readers focus when working on a computer—become helpful.” Maintain the proper computer distance. The proper distance between you and your computer is 2 feet 6 inches to 3 feet 6 inches, explains Dr. Camron Bateman of the Eye Foundation of Utah. “Many people find that putting the screen at arm’s length is about right.” he adds. “If you also make sure your chair is at a proper height for you, it will help make your computer work more comfortable.” Create optimum lighting conditions. Reflected light or glare is fatiguing to the eyes and reduces the contrast, colors and sharpness of the display, says Mamalis. “In an office with bright windows, draw the drapes a bit,” he says. “If possible, increase the contrast on your computer background. I also make the font a little bigger so it will be easier to read.” He also suggests angling your computer screen so light doesn’t hit it directly. Attaching an anti-glare screen to your computer will also help cut down on the reflective light. Keep regular eye examinations. After you make efforts to create a more eye-friendly computer room, see your doctor if you have prolonged eye discomfort or a noticeable change in vision. Bateman advises having your eyes checked annually to detect problems early. “It’s good to have a preventive attitude,” he says. Be sure to tell your eye doctor how often you use a computer at work and at home.
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