Five ways to be nice to your eyes

Your eyes are the products of millions of years of evolution. Unfortunately, this means that they’re optimized for spotting prey across the savanna, not for peering at letters built up of little dots on tiny screens. In recent years, optometrists have come to recognize a complex of eye and vision problems they call Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS for short.

When you spend your day looking at computer screens (especially poorly-maintained screens, or the tiny ones on mobile devices), your eyes strain, you blink less, and your body gets generally unhappy. The result? Fatigue, headaches, blurry vision, dry eyes, neck and backaches, and even double vision.

The good news is that you don’t have to just tolerate CVS. There are some simple things you can do that can help make your eyes happier with all this close-up work. Here are some suggestions from  the American Optometric Association and elsewhere:

1. Take breaks.  The 20-20-20 rule is a good guideline here: stop every 20 minutes, pause for 20 seconds, and look at something 20 feet away. An onscreen reminder application can nag you to do this if you tend to get overabsorbed in your work.

2. Look down. Keeping your eyes wide open (as you naturally tend to do when you’re looking at something above you contributes to drying them out, especially when your blink rate is lowered anyhow.  Your workspace should be arranged so that your monitor is below eye level, not above.

3. Eliminate glare. Now that we’re mostly using LCD screens instead of CRTs, this isn’s as much of a problem as it used to be, but you should still watch out for bright lights directly behind you that reflect off of your screen. If you’re sitting with your back to the window, demand that the boss buy curtains – or move your desk.

4. Sit back from the screen. The closer you get to the monitor, the more you’re going to be straining to focus. Increase the font size if necessary to sit back at a comfortable distance.

5. Talk to your eye doctor. Don’t neglect those annual vision checkups, and make sure that your optometrist knows you’re working at a computer. It makes a difference (for example, traditional bifocals aren’t good for computer work). You wouldn’t expect your doctor to design web sites, so don’t try to treat your own vision problems if they get serious!

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