Hey fellow readers, writers, and anyone else that spends a ridiculously long time online or on a device, this blog is for you.
Some of you have seen pictures of me before, and will notice right away that in this one above, I’m wearing glasses. I normally take them off for photographs, but today I’ve decided to share this picture in the spirit of eye health awareness. I’m not a doctor, or even trying to play one on the internet, but my latest experience has made me want to share with you the importance of eye health and a few tips for avoiding eye strain.
Two years ago, I was told that while my prescription had not changed much, I needed to limit my time online. Being a writer, who works on my computer, markets online, and basically does everything online, it’s easier said than done. By the end of the day, my eyes were so tired that I had severe headaches and had double vision even with my glasses on. Night driving was out. The other headlights would blind me so badly, that everything would go black for a few seconds as my brain would reboot and refocus. If I didn’t get enough sleep, my eyes were so tired in the morning and things were still blurry even with my glasses, and my eyeballs ached. I was prescribed bifocals to help with the strain and told to wear my glasses full time. Being told this two days before my fortieth birthday didn’t set well with me. I mean, what a way to say, “You’re getting old!” than needing granny glasses. But I got them anyway and noticed what a great difference.I started wearing them and continued on with my work, happily ignoring the slight symptoms creeping back up on me. It wasn’t until the eye strain was back with a vengeance that I realized my prescription was outdated by a year, so I made an appointment for a check-up. The strain had started to interfere with my writing, reading, and other work, so I couldn’t get my new glasses fast enough.
At the appointment, after my eyes were nice and dilated, the doctor shined a bright, blinding light into my peepers and started rattling off words to his assistant that didn’t sound too pleasant or positive. While I blinked the spots away, he explained that he found something that he usually doesn’t see in someone my age which is called drusen. Drusen are yellow deposits under the retina that are made of lipids and fatty proteins and can increase the chances of age-related macular degeneration, which causes blindness. Drusen are usually found in people around the age of 60. (I’m 42.) Now, you can Google drusen to read and learn more about it. Again, I’m not here to play doctor or put fear into anyone. I only want you to recognize the amount of stress you might be putting on your own eyes since it’s so easy to get caught up in our day to day and ignore these issues. So, after learning about drusen and that my prescription had changed drastically, it was suggested that I get a lens called Crizal Prevencia to block blue-violet light which comes from the sun, some indoor lights, and most computer monitors and devices.
I’ve had my new glasses about a month now and the blue blocking lenses are amazing. Within the first week, not only could I see much better with my stronger prescription, but the light from my computer doesn’t hurt my eyes and cut my work time short, sunlight doesn’t make me squint like before, and I do better driving at night without the other headlights blinding me. I strongly recommend it for anyone who wears glasses and works on the computer for long hours. If you are not on the computer, but use smaller devices constantly, you can buy a clear shield to put over the device’s screen that will filter out the blue-violet light.
If you are having any of these issues— if anything I’m saying sounds familiar to you, please go and get your eyes checked. If you wear glasses, don’t go as long as I did for a repeat exam, especially if you are experiencing eye strain. Again, I’m not an eye doctor, but here are some of the tips my eye doctor gave me to help prevent eye strain:
Don’t forget to blink. It may seem silly, but consider this: We actually blink way less often when we are reading or staring into our devices. It’s true and hours and hours of this add up.
Do not read on a computer or device that omits light while sitting in the dark. Yeah, those lovely digital books are so handy to read in the dark without disturbing the entire family, but you’re straining your eyes. It’s suggested that you have 50% of the light that shines from your device for the light of the room you’re in. And guess what, this includes watching TV in the dark too. Turn on a lamp and balance out the light. You’ll be glad you did.
Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water will help with that dry eye tendency you might be experiencing from staring at the screen so long without blinking. You can also use eye drops now and then if needed.
Take breaks to rest your eyes. I know it’s sometimes hard to find time to eat or even go to the bathroom when you’re in the middle of a vigorous writing session, but just like those things are important to your health, so is resting your eyes.
Get enough sleep. Staying up late nights is often necessary for writers and readers too. I’m guilty of staying up until four a.m. more than once trying to finish a great book. The more sleep we get the better for our eyes. They’ll be much better rested for a day full of work and you’ll have many more days of good eye health to read and write!
Now, for those of you who think that you’re too young for all this or that you’ve always had perfect vision and always will— I used to think the same thing. I had great vision my entire life up until I was about in my mid-thirties and started spending more time online reading and writing. My eye health has deteriorated drastically and swiftly due to the amount of strain and stress I put on them. Get regular eye exams and take some of these tips to heart. Do what you can so your eyes will stay healthy for life.