How To Soothe Computer Eye Strain And Save Your Eyes: 8 Tips

by Sarah on March 5, 2011

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Besides my fingers and my brain, my eyes are one of my most essential work tools.

My business depends on them. Even more importantly, most of what I enjoy doing in life depends on them.

Yet I’ve experienced many a day after working on the computer when my eyes have a hard time focusing, they’re red and irritated.  And often enough I have a headache too.

I’m sure you’re familiar with some of this.  Well, thanks to our love affair with lighted screens, there’s now an official term for this: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

Eye experts estimate that CVS affects up to 90% of people who spend two or more continuous hours a day latched onto a screen.  I suspect the typical home business owner easily surpasses this quota.

According to the American Optometric Association, CVS has the following symptoms:
·    eyestrain
·    headaches
·    blurred vision
·    dry eyes
·    neck and shoulder pain

This growing problem again is rooted in forcing our body to conform to an unnatural daily routine.  Just like sitting all day, staring at a screen for hours at a time is exactly not what our bodies are designed to do.

Our eyes are magnificent machines. They can shift from picking out tiny blips of movement on the horizon to zeroing in on the path of an ant near our toe.

But they seem to like the 20-foot distance the best.  And that’s a good deal further than the 2 feet between you and your monitor.

Secondly, our eyes have a sophisticated built-in eye-wash system that keeps them lubricated, clean and healthy.  It’s called blinking.

Typically, we blink about 16-20 times each minute.  However, a recent study showed that when caught in the mesmerizing glare of the computer screen most people’s eyes blink less than 6 times a minute.

Wow, imagine what that’s doing to your thirsty eyes with bacteria and dust accumulating on it as you peruse Facebook or do your QuickBooks.

Not good.

However, all this being said, it’s still unfeasible to ditch the screen when you’re running a business online.

Yet, there are some simple routine shifts that can make a world of difference:

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tactic #1 Take Breaks

Ann Jordan-Mills, aka Computer Savvy Granny, notes in her excellent ebook on ergonomics, how much she loves to look out her office window to watch the squirrels scramble about on the trees.

I use the same tactic.  I look out on my garden and across to the forest beyond.  When there’s not snow on the ground, I’m often treated with sight of a daily parade of chickens and the occasional husband, goat or child.

Vision experts recommend taking this kind of break every 20 minutes, make it last for at least 20 seconds and look at a fixed point 20 feet away.

The more frequent and regular the better.

The great thing is you already have a schedule that works for this recommendation.  Just add this into your fitness breaks that I talk about in the Fitness Chapter.  Use the same egg-timer and make sure that when you do your jumping jacks, you also look off into the distance a bit.

I’m also working on training myself to look away when a web page is loading or I’m waiting for emails to download.

If you’ve found that you work better with longer than 20-minute stretches, set a mini-break in the middle with the timer.  And give your eyes a short 20-second respite.

Bear in mind timing it for exactly 20 minutes between eye-breaks is not a hard and fast rule.  I think this was more to make a neat 20-20-20 recommendation. More important is to have several breaks each hour, and keep them coming regularly.

The more you look away from your screen, the brighter your eyes will be when you look back.

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tactic #2: Position Your Monitor Right

I’ve already described the right position of your monitor – straight in front of you so you don’t have to tilt your head up.

This helps your eyes in a very basic way.  It keeps your lids down over your eyes more than if you have to look up slightly.  This small adjustment can help your eyes stay even more protected and lubricated.

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tactic #3: Light Up Your World The Right Way

I love the sunshine that pours into my office, but about midday it hits my screen.  I found myself squinting and straining to work around it.

Light is a wonderful thing.  But when light becomes glare it’s not so good.

Since I was reluctant to lose the solar warmth with a set of curtains, I’ve put a nice piece of artwork on my window sill that I slide over with the light as I need it.

If a curtain or strategic artwork won’t do it for you, you may need to reposition your desk to a place where the sunlight doesn’t hit your screen directly.

And despite all those wonderful images of freelancers working poolside in the warm tropical sun, I have yet to find a satisfactory way to work outside in the bright sunshine without straining too much.  (A shady bug tent or spot under a tree works fine, however.)

By the same token, make sure that you have adequate light in your office.  The light of the computer screen can be deceptive when the room lighting gets dim.  If you’re moving back and forth between books and papers and your screen, your eyes will have to work that much harder to adjust from reading words on the screen and reading words on the dimly lit page.

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tactic #4: Exercise

More activity in your life just makes your whole body stronger.  And this is no different for your lovely eyes.

A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that active adults had 70% less risk of developing age-related macular degeneration than people who had a more sedentary lifestyle.

70% is a big difference.

Now certainly, people who tend to be more active tend to eat better too.  So nutrition is certainly a factor (and I’ll get to that)

But there’s nothing like getting the blood churning through your body to keep your tissues – like that of your eyes – in good shape.

In fact other research has associated exercise with less inflammation and irregularities in blood vessel walls.  And these are two common symptoms associated with age-related macular degeneration.

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tip #5 Get Outside

Two studies that came out in 2008 added evidence to the idea that getting outdoors is good for you.

But these looked specifically at eyesight.

The first study that involved 4000 Australian children found that the children who spent more time outdoors had less problems with myopia.  The especially interesting aspect of this study was that the researchers found that this finding was independent of how much near work the children did, or how active they were.

The most common thread was how much outdoors time they spent.

Similarly a second study published in the New England Journal of Medicine also found that kids who spent more time outside had less vision problems.  However, in this case, the researchers also found that the kids who were indoors more also spent more time on the computer than the outdoors kids.

While the researchers were uncertain about the reasons behind these findings, they noted 3 things:

1.    When you spend time outdoors you tend to look at greater distances (we’ve covered that important eye-health concern)
2.    When you spend time outdoors the more intense light causes the pupil to constrict allowing for a greater depth of vision.
3.    This light intensity may even be a factor in eye growth and development.

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tip #6: Get Good Nutrition

Your eyes love leafy green vegetables.  Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean put spinach leaves over your eyes.  Eat them.

We live on lambsquarters, kale, chard, spinach and romaine lettuces and I spike my salad dressing with nettles.  All these greens have tremendous amount of carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin.  While we use about 20 carotenoids in our body, only these two are found in our eyes and they seem to help especially in protecting the lens and the retina.

In the winter we also eat a lot of butternut squash, packed with eye-nutrient vitamin A.  My husband swears that he can literally see the difference after I sauté up some squash with some fresh garlic and olive oil. I think it’s just the visual relief of lovely orange in our winter palate, but hey, he could be right!

Another nutrition powerhouse for eyes? Omega-3 fatty acids.  These special nutrients are key for nerve health, a critical part of your eye.  Several studies have shown that people who eat more fish have less problems with age-related macular degeneration.

Salmon, mackerel, tuna and – my favorite – sardines are all are great sources of omega-3′s.

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tip #7: Get Good Rest

True confession here . . . I didn’t get quite enough sleep over the last few days.  And my eyes are letting me know it.  They’re red and irritated, somewhat puffy and it’s harder to focus at the end of the day. In fact it’s kind of like shooting myself in the foot, since those long hours have meant that I’ve had to cut down my computer time a bit to let my eyes recuperate.

Like all parts of your body, your eyes need the down time to repair.  They’re working incredibly hard during the day.  When you sleep, the nerves can relax, the blood circulates doing clean-up duty and storing up nutrients, and your eyes get a nice washing with all the lubrication they soak in while your eyes are closed.

Notice that yucky green stuff in the corner of your eyes when you wake up? The result of last night’s thorough clean up/rehabilitation work.

Computer Eye Strain Rescue Tip #8: Practice Good Hygiene

I’m a contact wearer and with over 20 million contact wearers in the U.S. you probably are too.

And along with contacts comes the need for vigilance when it comes to hygiene.  Infections like bacterial keratitis can cause serious eye problems. While it’s not exclusive to lens-wearers, as much as 42% of the estimated 25,000 cases each year in the US are contact lens wearers, particularly extended-lens wearers.

Poor hygiene like contaminated lens cases and solutions are often the culprits in these cases.  And while often a return to good hygiene and antibiotics can end the infection, some cases end in blindness.

When you combine the diminished lubrication and cleaning your eye gets because you blink less with screen time (see rescue tip #1), good lens hygiene becomes even more a premium for heavy computer users.

A few suggestions:
1.    Be diligent about washing your hands before handling your lenses and diligent about lens cleaning.
2.    Periodically scrub your case thoroughly with warm water and soap and either sterilize it by soaking it in boiling water or hydrogen peroxide.  Some ophthalmologists recommend buying a whole new case frequently, but I think thorough scrubbing combined with sterilization is sufficient.
3.    Give your lenses a break.  If you’re working late, if you’re sick or if your eyes just feel tired, take your lenses out and use your glasses instead.

Put These 8 Tips To Use And Save Your Eyes

You depend on your eyes not only for your income, but for your overall quality of life.

And when you’re working at the computer, you make them work extra hard.

So don’t overlook ways to give your precious peepers some real tender loving care.  Use these 8 tips and rescue your eyes from computer vision syndrome.

It’s another smart business strategy that will save your eyes and allow you to enjoy the beauty of the world even more.

Sarah Clachar created Your Healthy Home Biz based on her experience of building a natural health copywriting business at home. YHHB combines her wealth of knowledge as a health writer and researcher with that of being a home business owner. YHHB gives home business owners specific strategies, tips and inspiration on how to run your home business without running yourself into the ground.  Get weekly tips sent right to your inbox plus the invaluable but free guide “The Easy Way To Sneak Exercise Into Your Workday And Get More Done” when you fill in the optin form on the right.

PinExt How To Soothe Computer Eye Strain And Save Your Eyes: 8 Tips
share save 171 16 How To Soothe Computer Eye Strain And Save Your Eyes: 8 Tips
  • Anonymous

    There are really some useful tips on how to save your eyes in front of the computer. I got such a nice information from this part of article. Thanks for sharing such type of great information.

    IT support NYC

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  • Sarah

    Thank you for the tips. I’ve been having some really hard problems with computer strain lately. Most of what I do (work and fun) is either on the computer, tv, or reading books. So my eyes are straining all the time. I need to take more breaks and do the other tips as well because it’s really starting to affect my productivity.

    • Sarah

       Sarah, so glad you found this post. Eye strain is a growing problem because of our life on computers. Yes, take breaks! Eat well and drink lots of water.

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