Restraining eye strain

By Henrylito D. Tacio

WHEN a person reaches 40, the focusing power of his eyes starts to go.  Normal clear images start to appear blurry.  Eyestrain is how experts call this problem.  “It’s a gradual process that happens to everyone,” says Dr Maria Imelda Yap-Veloso, an ophthalmologist at the Asian Eye Institute in Manila.

But anyone can get eyestrain if what the individual is staring at all day is a video display terminal.  “Young people may experience eyestrain especially when they spend long hours in front of the computer,” warns Dr Gerard Chuah, a senior consultant ophthalmologist at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre in Singapore.

There are several causes, the most common of which is dry eyes.  “This is particularly widespread among people who work on computers in air-conditioned rooms,” explains Dr Chuah.  “It worsens with increasing age and appears to be more common with women.”

Eye muscle problems may also be a factor in producing eyestrain.  “If the eye muscles don’t work together efficiently,” explains Dr Yap-Veloso, “eyestrain results.” 

Tension headaches and migraine may also cause eyestrain.

The two experts provide some tips on how to avoid eyestrain:

• Try time-outs from your work. “After about 45-60 minutes in front of the computer, for instance, you should take a rest,” advises Dr Chuah.  Adds Dr Yap-Veloso, “Close your eyes and relax for a few minutes or refocus your eyes at distant objects.”

• Pay attention to lighting.  “Lighting conditions should be ideal when ever you read to minimize the effort to focus and see clearly, in order to prevent the quicker onset of eye strain,” explains Dr Yap-Veloso. “Holding the reading material 30-40 centimeters away from your eyes and having enough soft light coming from a source from behind or beside your shoulder would be good.”

• Stop reading – and refocus. “When you’re reading, stop after an hour,” suggests Dr Chuah.  “For 15 minutes, look at distant objects to rest the eyes.”

• Get a pair of reading glasses.  “If you have good distance vision and just have trouble seeing up close, reading glasses are sometimes enough to cure eyestrain,” says Dr Yap-Veloso.  You can get reading glasses from your doctor or you can buy them from the malls or department stores. 

• Exercise your eyes.  “Exercising the eyes, massaging the eyes may help eyestrain and there is no harm,” says Dr Chuah.

• Shut your eyes.  Shutting your eyes for a few minutes – while on the phone, for instance – refocuses them and allows the eyes to relax, easing the strain.  “Shutting your eyes helps moisten them,” Dr Yap-Veloso says.

• Avoid conditions not ideal for reading and eye work.  Examples: moving vehicles, awkward positions, and poor illumination.  “All these lead to difficulty in focusing and hence produce eyestrain over time,” warns Dr Yap-Veloso.

Here’s a word of caution: If there are any dangerous symptoms such as blurring of vision, redness, pain, you should immediately see an eye surgeon. “You might be suffering from glaucoma, a dangerous condition which can potentially cause blindness. – ###

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