10 tips to reduce eyestrain when working from home.
What is visual hygiene?
Although it often invokes images of washing and cleanliness, visual hygiene is the process of ensuring the visual system is operating at an optimal and comfortable level for close distance work such as reading and computer use, thus reducing eyestrain and visual discomfort.
Sustained near-point activity can cause stress on the system and a loss of efficiency in the way it functions.
How to improve visual hygiene?
- All close-range work should be done at the “Harmon distance”. This is the distance from your fist held at your chin to your elbow on a desk. This distance reduces a phenomenon called “near point stress” which results in the least strain on the visual system
- Wearing blue light glasses for digital devices blocks harmful blue light entering the eyes. The high energy blue wavelengths are the part of the visible spectrum closest to the UV spectrum and this high energy causes a stress on the visual system potentially causing eyestrain, tired eyes and headaches. Blue light has also been shown to inhibit the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone, resulting in disrupted sleep patterns.
- The 20-20-20 rule states that for every 20 minutes of close work you should look up and focus on an object 20 yards away for 20 seconds before getting back to work again.
The reason why this is extremely important is that whenever we are looking at an object at a distance of one meter or closer small muscles both inside and outside our eyes are working hard to track the objects we are looking at and make them clear. These muscles are just like any other muscles in the body and can get tired if overused and this is why the breaks every 20 minutes or so are necessary to prevent eyestrain.
- Good lighting is important. It should originate from the ceiling and be directed at the source that you are reading through either natural (ideally) or artificial light and not pointed in the direction of your eyes as this would cause eyestrain. Avoiding fluorescent light is important also.
- The working desk should not be placed in such a way that the person is facing a wall but rather in front of an open space or window to allow for viewing an object at a distance of 20 meters away after every 20 minutes of close work.
- Having an adjustable chair is important so that it can be adjusted to a person’s height. It is important to sit up straight with your feet flat against the ground, working at a distance of approximately 50cm or the harmon distance and have the reading material or computer screen at an inclined angle of 20 to 30 degrees from the desk surface.
- Too much near concentrated work often results in a lower frequency blink rate than normal and can dry out the eyes as a result. Make sure to consciously blink a little more to stop this and avoid wearing contact lenses or air conditioned environments if possible.
- For children it is important not to spend excessive amount of time on near point activities. The human eye is very adaptable and if the eye gets used to correcting for a short distance it will be very good at correcting to this distance but not as good correcting for far-distance resulting in the development of myopia.
- Get your eyes tested regularly. Even if you don’t ever notice a change in your vision its important to have a full eye exam at least every two years or in some cases depending on your circumstances every year. Myopia is very easy for a person to detect themselves as distance objects appear out of focus but a small to medium about of hyperopia can be compensated for by our intraocular lens to the point that the person does not even know that they have a corrective error.
Over time it becomes harder for the eyes to clear this error and it puts a strain on the intraocular muscles causing eyestrain and tired eyes and can even lead to headaches.
- Make sure to get enough sleep. The extraocular muscle that control eye tracking, movement and the ciliary muscle that controls the focusing of our internal lens are just like any other muscle in our bodies in that they can get tired and are not as efficient if you have not had enough sleep. 7-9 hours sleep is the recommended about to get which will result in a well rested and more functional visual system.
Other things we can do to improve our visual hygiene
If you are suffering from eyestrain due to an inability of fully converge (move eyes inwards towards the nose) a very simple exercise is to hold a pen at arms length and focus on the tip of the pen. Then slowly move the pen towards your nose while maintaining a focus on the tip of the pen. When it gets to the stage where this is difficult to do more the pen further back and try again. This exercise helps strengthen the extraocular muscles and when strengthened up will allow the eyes to converge naturally without causing eyestrain.
Vitamin A, beta carotene, Vitamin B, lutein & zeaxanthin and Omega 3 essential fatty acids are all important in maintaining a healthy visual system and have been show to decrease dry eye and inflammation in the eyes