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Is my computer giving me headaches?

I know mine does!!! But seriously, we weren’t designed to stare at a computer screen hour after hour, yet many of us do so by choice or by need (job requirement?, teenage-ness?, etc.) If you regularly deal with a computer, try the following:

First, make sure you have your eyes examined regularly – once per year, so that you ensure your eyes are not being needlessly strained. Many patients have discovered the benefits of having a pair of glasses made specifically to use for near and computer work.

At the appointment let the doctor know how much you use the computer. Have a tape measure or yard sick at hand when you do this next part: Days before you come in for the exam, sit in front of your computer and use it for a little while – about 15-20 minutes. Get comfortable in front of it. Get into your typical working position – not some stiff upright posture that the nuns at my grammar school would have wanted (though this might help with that lower back pain). You need to be in the position that is real for you. Now measure the distance from the bridge of your nose to the middle of your computer screen and write it down so you can bring it to the exam. Also, measure the distance to your keyboard and any associated paperwork you look at while on the computer, and add them to your list of working distances. If you use multiple screens, measure the distance to them all. This will allow the doctor to determine the proper power you need to see your screen clearly and without working your eyes overtime.

When you get into the position as described above – you know, the comfortable one – look straight ahead past the computer screen. Can you see over the top of the monitor without having to look up? If yes, great!  If not, your monitor is too high or you are too low.  You want to be in a “down gaze” looking down a little when you do near work, whether it is reading, writing, knitting, model building, sewing, wood-working, etc. etc. etc., and – oh yeah! -  using the computer! Our eyes converge (rotate inward) to see close and they do it much more easily and comfortably while looking down a bit.

While doing concentrated near work or computer use remember a simple rule: 20/20/20. Every 20 minutes or so, take a break from the computer or the near task at hand for at least 20 seconds, and look into the distance at least 20 feet away.  This allows the convergence muscles on the outside of the eyes and the focusing muscles on the inside of the eyes to relax for a little while. Imagine picking up a 5 pound bag of sugar. No big deal, right? Now imagine holding it out at arm’s length for the next hour or so. Much bigger deal.

Remember to blink your eyes more often when you read or use the computer. Near tasks that we put more concentration into tend to have us blink less often than when we are looking farther away. Less blinking equals less lubrication on the front of your eyes. This can affect both the vision and the comfort of the eyes – even more so with Contact Lens users.

So, give your eyes a little break during those long sessions on the computer or other concentrated near work. Your eyes will thank you.

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