Blog - The eyes have it

Image of several pairs of reading glassesI’ve just completed a Low Vision Rehabilitation post grad paper run through the Otago Occupational Therapy School, and it’s a been a real eye opener, if you’ll excuse the pun!

Firstly, visual impairment is the fasting growing health issue in the world today – far higher than dementia. (Economic Impact and Cost of Low Vision Loss – Centre for Eye Research Australia, 2004).

Secondly, 80% of vision loss is treatable.

We often relate failing eyesight to ageing, and the next statistic would indicate this – your risk of vision impairment trebles for every decade from 40 onwards, and we are all living longer.

Common eye conditions often associated with ageing include cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Regular eye checks help to identify these conditions earlier and some are treatable at an early stage.

There are also a range of other issues affecting eyesight which happens following a stroke, traumatic brain injury or babies can be born with eye conditions. Some are treatable surgically and there is a growing range of rehabilitation treatments available which help to train people in using remaining eyesight more effectively. Help for this treatment is limited by funding in New Zealand, but it pays to ask if you have an issue and are seeing an opthalmologist  (eye surgeon) or optometrist (who tests and prescribes eye wear).

So is this an issue in an office setting and what can you do to reduce the risk of eye damage? People I see often report tired eyes – this can be simply due to long periods of looking at the screen, when we also tend to reduce blinking, so eyes dry up, and don’t look away much. This fixed focal length can be tiring for the eyes.

It pays to get your eyes checked if they are getting tired to make sure there are not any other conditions developing. Prescription glasses may be required to reduce the strain on your eyes which may also be occurring as  a part of the normal ageing process (when your eyes don’t adjust as easily as they did when younger). As an aside, if you are struggling to read the screen nearer the end of the day and it’s getting blurry, you may find yourself (as I found was happening to me), leaning closer in to the screen and developing a sore upper back and neck.

Actions I’ve taken which I have found have helped to helped to improve vision and reduce the risk of more rapid deterioration include:

  • Making sure you have enough light at work. To test this out, hold a piece of white paper up on your computer screen. If it’s so bright it hurts your eyes to look at it, there is too much light. It it’s quite dull, especially if compared with placing the paper flat on your desk, you may need to change desk position or use a desk light. This last option certainly helped in my home based office.
  • If you have to get prescription glasses and use the computer a lot, consider getting a blue tint on your glasses surface. Recent research has shown that this calms down the office lighting and also reduces the risk of macular degeneration.
  • Drinking plenty of water hydrates all of your body including your eyes.
  • Remember to blink – this can be a challenge when we are focused on that computer screen.

Overall, look after your eyes. They are a precious gift, which we all too often take for granted.