Sight is one of, if not the most important, of the senses. But your workplace could be putting your sight at risk. A Franciscan Physician Network opthalmologist breaks down some of the common vision problems facing workers.
Screen Time Leads to Strain Time
Digital eye strain, fatigue and dry eyes are common eye problems for workers who are routinely at a computer.
Reading text on a computer screen, tablet or other digital device can be more taxingfor the eyes than reading printed text. This is one reason employees who work on a computer for long periods might have eye problems.
Several factors contribute to digital eye strain, such as:
- Screen glare
- Poor lighting
- Poor posture while using the computer
- Viewing the computer at the wrong distance and angle
- Uncorrected vision problems
- A combination of these factors
On average, people tend to blink less when using a computer than when reading a printed text. This can cause dry eye, which can contribute to digital eye strain.
Rand Diab, MD, an ophthalmologist at Franciscan Physician Network Hammond Clinic in Munster, Indiana, recommends the use of lubricating drops, such as artificial tears. These eye drops can be purchased over the counter and used up to four times a day.
If You Work on Computers All Day
"In offices, force yourself to blink periodically; close your eyes, look away from the screen and focus sometimes on a distant target," says Dr. Diab. "I commonly see dry and fatigued eyes in people who stare at screens a lot."
Improving your work environment can also help your eyes. Some tips include:
- Rest your eyes at least 15 minutes after each 2 hours of computer or digital device use.
- Every 20 minutes, look into the distance, away from the computer or digital device for at least 20 seconds.
- Enlarge the text on your computer screen or digital device.
- Minimize glare from the light sources in your environment.
- Consider using a screen glare filter.
- Position your screen so that the center of it is about 4 to 5 inches below eye level (about 15 to 20 degrees from the horizontal).
- Position your screen about 20 to 28 inches from your eye.
- Remember to blink frequently.
- Fix your chair height so your feet can rest comfortably on the floor. Don't slump over the computer screen.
Making these changes eliminates digital eye strain in many people.
Reducing Screen Glare
Reduce screen glare with these steps:
- Place the screen at a right angle to any windows.
- Tilt the screen angle to reduce reflections from overhead lights or desk lamps.
- Use drapes, shades, or blinds to control window lighting and glare.
- Keep the screen brightness the same as or brighter than other bright objects in the room.
- Set your computer to show black characters on a white background.
- Use a screen filter that reduces glare to enhance screen contrast and increase character legibility.
- Use a 3-sided computer hood if glare continues to be a problem.
- Keep the screen clean and dust-free. Wipe it daily often with an anti-static cloth.
- Keep the screen in focus.
Dry Eyes in the Office
"Dry eyes can affect anyone, not just office workers," Dr. Diab said. "They are also impacted by factors outside of the workplace, such as screen time at home. Also, some people work in very dry buildings, and that makes it worse."
To treat dry eye, consider using a humidifier in the home or workplace, or speak to your eye doctor about over-the-counter lubricating drops or prescription medications that can treat dry eye.
Your eye doctor also might recommend the following:
- Treating allergies, if present
- Staying hydrated
- Taking a prescription medicine to increase tear production
Managing Eye Strain
"Eye strain, like other strains, can be managed with rest," Dr. Diab says." Getting enough sleep on a regular basis helps, too."
Work-Related Eye Injuries
In factories, use safety glasses or safety goggles. Foreign bodies or debris in the eye often have to be removed by the ophthalmologist in the office with special instruments or irrigation.
"I see a lot of metallic particles that get trapped on the eye surface that I need to remove," Dr. Diab says. "That occurs commonly in auto mechanics or mill workers or anyone working with flying debris."
Often, people with vision problems wait far too long before getting an eye exam. If you have any change in vision, have it checked out by an eye care professional. Only an eye healthcare professional can identify serious vision problems at a stage early enough to treat.
Your eye doctor will also need to treat any underlying problems contributing to your digital eye strain. For example, you might need a new pair of glasses.
"Any time one is having a problem with vision or pain or discomfort in the eyes, they should have an eye exam," Dr. Diab says. "Aside from that, one screening exam is reasonable and then the doctor can make recommendations thereafter."
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Information from © 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC, and Franciscan Health's "Franciscan Focus" magazine (Northwest Indiana) contributed to this article.