Many of us end a typical day with blurred vision, pounding headache, eyes that burn and feel gritty ... or any combination of the above. And no wonder! On top of irritants such as air pollution, household chemicals and allergens from pets and seasonal vegetation, consider what we’re doing most of the day:
- Sitting for long hours at a computer workstation
- Social networking after work/school
- Watching TV
- Playing videogames
- Texting and using smartphone apps.
Yikes! When you think about it, we’re heaping constant abuse on a very precious gift – our eyesight.
March is Save Your Vision Month, and the American Optometric Association is issuing a special appeal to computer users, asking us to take some simple steps to protect our eye health.
Those of us who sit in front of a computer for long periods of time often encounter a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. Headaches, neck strain, backaches and wrist pain are common, but, sadly, the most prevalent symptoms of prolonged computer use – eye strain, blurred vision and dry eye – are often overlooked. In fact, eye and vision problems are the most frequently reported health-care problems among computer users.
Computer Vision Syndrome
These symptoms contribute to computer vision syndrome, which the American Optometric Association defines as "the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work that are experienced during or related to computer use."
Sitting at a computer generally causes a person to look straight ahead for long stretches, work in a dry office or home environment, and to blink less often. These factors can lead to vision problems.
To prevent developing symptoms – or to alleviate further damage to eyes from strain, it is important to follow good ergonomic practices for your desk setup.
Make sure the computer screen top is below your eye level by about 15 to 20 degrees, and have any reference materials you need between the keyboard and the computer screen level, so you don’t need to move your head to view documents. Other tips include using anti-glare screens and improving lighting, seating position and height.
In general, safeguarding your eyesight means taking care of your overall health with good sleep habits, a balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Your eyes need time to rest and replenish the nutrient-rich fluids necessary for clear, sharp vision. That means getting good quality sleep – 8 hours if possible – every night.
- If you suffer from dry eye, use eye drops throughout the day and an over-the-counter nighttime eye gel or ointment. If the problem is severe, consult your health-care practitioner.
- A balanced diet containing lots of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits will help to ensure a healthy blood flow to eyes and brain. Be sure to get plenty of omega 3 fats (walnuts, olive oil, flaxseeds, avocados) and include at least two servings of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines) in your weekly menu.
- A daily eye health supplement can help you strengthen your eyesight naturally. Look for these ingredients: vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12; astaxanthin, Alpha Lipoic Acid, lutein, lycopene, vinpocetine, and zeaxanthin.
What is your favorite remedy for soothing tired, overstressed eyes?
Learn More: American Optometric Association, Computer Vision Syndrome Fact Sheet (PDF)