Eyes Bothering You at the Computer?
By Niki A. Silverstein, MD, Board-Certified Ophthalmologist


Are you on the computer many hours a day or at one time? Do you find yourself looking away, squinting, or rubbing your eyes? Anyone who uses the computer for long periods of time can be putting undue strain on their eyes. Here are some of my Do's and Don'ts on how you can keep your eyes healthy and see your best while at the computer. Remember to always consult your doctor if you have problems that are not easily remedied, or are interfering with your lifestyle.

Give your eyes a break!

Ideally, some kind of break where you can get up and move your whole body around is suggested. However, during a workday this is not always possible. In the old days when people used typewriters, they would not be staring directly at them as we do computers; they would have to put paper in, change ink, push the barrel, etc. All of these actions used different muscles not just in the eye but in the upper body. Eyestrain use to be much less prevalent. What is needed now while at a computer is to change your focus at least every 20 minutes. Here are a few ideas:
1.1. Get up and look out the window for a few minutes, or get up and walk around, or if you need to be reading something, read it in a different chair.
2.2. Roll your neck around, look at the ceiling and look side to side.
3.3. Stretch your arms out or stand up. It is always best to get out of the position you are in, but if that is not possible then at least focus your eyes on something else for a few minutes.

A Good Work Area is Essential
Glare can be a problem with the computer screen, but you should see an eye doctor first to make sure that glare is your real problem. Glare problems can be addressed with anti-glare products and proper lighting. You should also consult with a licensed eye care professional to see what will work for you.

Ideally, research says that the computer should be about 20-28 inches away from your eyes. Experiment to see what is best for you. Also, adjust your settings, such as brightness, contrast, fonts and even colors to see what is best for you. You may also want to look into computer ergonomics. The correct chair and station for you can not just avoid eye problems but also head, neck and other possible areas that are strained from sitting for long periods of time.

Are things you need far from your desk? Or is everything within a glimpse? Maybe it is good to have what you most need near you, but there is something to be said about putting things in areas where you have to move to get to them, or mixing things up once in awhile so that your eyes are not following the same movements all the time.

There are a lot of products that are available that claim to help cut down on glare or otherwise improve your viewing experience. Some of these claims are valid and some are not. However, the first step is to visit your eye doctor. That would be money well spent. You may find that it is not glare, but perhaps a change or prescription or a different prescription that is needed for computer viewing. Or, it could be a glare issues. Each person is different and you will need a trained eye professional to help you figure out what will help you the most.

Blink and Move

A symptom of eye fatigue is that your eyes may blink less, which may lead to dry eyes. Be sure to think about blinking. Not blinking enough can upset the delicate balance of moisture in your eyes. You may also want to consider a humidifier if the air is dry, as this may compound the problem. If you think you have dry eyes, please consult your eye doctor. Your computer may or may not be the culprit and there are treatments available.

As stated earlier, try to give your eyes a break every 20 minutes. However, in addition to these short breaks, change up your computer routine with other activities during your work time, even something like a 5 minute walk down the hall or around your building. It is not good for your eyes nor your body. Your body needs to get up and move, and a good healthy body is good for your eyes. Go to a physical store instead of shopping online once in a while. Walk or drive to a friend’s house instead of visiting them on Facebook. Pick up a real ball instead of throwing one with your thumb in a video game. You will not just do your eyes good, but your body and your mind good as well.

It is okay to write a first draft or a quick note to someone on pen and paper. It is also a nice change of pace, for example, to read a newspaper or magazine or book instead of reading one online. There are also other devices that you can use, like Iphones and IPads, which use your eyes differently. You may even want to use some of the vocal options for completing tasks if available.

Watch for Symptoms
If you consistently get a headache or have symptoms such as irritated eyes or discomfort in your eyes, burning, trouble focusing, blurred or double vision, blinking a lot or not enough, dry eyes, watery eyes, sensitivity to light or pain in your face, neck, or upper back on a regular basis, visit your eye doctor. Any pain in your body can be associated with staying in the same position, aside from eye fatigue, and is a sign that something needs to be done. If you have any of these symptoms, they may or may not be caused by working at the computer and you should have them checked out.

Our world is filled with screens - phones, computers, video games, mobile devices. Each one of these, when used consistently, can affect our eyes. There is no easy answer on how to prevent eye strain, but it is becoming much more prevalent since the turn of the century, and it is becoming a real problem that can cause not just lifestyle changes, but missed work productivity. Fortunately, there are easy remedies, so see your doctor at the onset of symptoms.

Dr. Niki Silverstein is a Board-certified ophthalmologist in Chester, NJ who takes pride is saying that she has had an ophthalmology practice in Northern Jersey for the past 25 years. Visit her at http://www. or on Facebook at Silverstein Eye.

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