If you spend a lot of time on a computer, you will soon notice a problem — apart from brain fatigue in late afternoon — and that’s eye strain.
So how bad is eye strain for those of us who work on screens most of the day? Do we take the health of our eyes for granted? Are we uncomplaining martyrs to eye strain until something even more painful and debilitating turns up, usually out of the blue?
Are there strategies we can adopt to prevent it?
The main cause of computer users’ eye strain seems to be the result of constant close-focusing. When the eyes are looking at a distant object the muscles are relaxed and loose. When focused on something near they are contracted and tense. Over time, too much close work causes eye problems.
One of the simplest ways to counteract this tendency is by “palming visualization”, adapted from an exercise in the Bates Good Sight Without Glasses programme.
Palming is quite simple: when your eyes are strained, or preferably before, place the palms of your hands over your eyes so as to block out all light. Keep them there for a couple of minutes or so and you’ll find your eyes are quite refreshed.
Now, if you also visualize an object in the far distance, say, a tree, or a ship on the horizon, this will cause your eyes to focus into the distance thus unlocking the clenched effect of close viewing. This double exercise, repeated at 15 or 30-minute intervals depending on the severity of the problem, is very beneficial for eye strain.
It’s often said that dark green, leafy vegetables contain a substance, lutein, which prevents macular degeneration, particularly in older eyes. This is a common problem, apparently. So start digging up those cabbages.
Another tip for persisent problems with screen-induced eye strain is to buy a pair of magnifying glasses. These are just prescription-free reading specs with simple magnifying lenses, typically 2.5x. You can often pick them up in libraries, or even in gift shops these days.
There must be a lot of it about.