Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 01/08/21 11:00 AM
How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? I bet you’re doing great! But if you’re reading this while eating candy bars and smoking cigarettes, I bring good news. You can start a New New Year’s resolution today to take better care of your eyes. And bonus: it is way easier than going to the gym.
Now, as for how to go about doing that, I’ve got a few suggestions.
Maybe the best advice is to decide to get rid of eye strain. Eye strain is having to focus harder than you want to, blink more than normal, or think too hard about what you’re seeing. There are several reasons for it.
The number one cause of that is having refractive error that isn’t 100% corrected. That could mean you need glasses for the first time, or that your glasses and contacts aren’t quite perfect. Schedule a visit with the eye doctor! If you don’t have one and you’re in Florida, you’re welcome to come here. All other states are banned. (Not really, some folks fly here to see us and we love it.)
If you find yourself blinking a lot sometimes to try and really focus in on something, that’s probably some mild dryness. Dryness is weird because it fluctuates quite a bit during the day. It’s either worse in the morning, or worse at night, depending on the cause. The first step in the cure is the same either way: preservative-free artificial tears. They’re over the counter and — as homespun as the advice seems — artificial tears can heal a myriad of problems. Drop one of those in your eye, and 30 seconds later can feel magical.
Maybe you spend a lot of time on the computer. If you’re reading this, then it’s a safe bet you do. That can cause eye strain in two ways: the so-called “double whammy effect.” I should clarify that no one calls it that, but I’m trying to start a trend. Anyway, the double whammy is that you have to focus on a screen that is close to you (using eye muscles to do so) and also that screen is glowing. Taking a 20 second break to look 20 feet away every 20 minutes or so can work wonders. It gives those muscles a break. It’s not that focusing requires extreme exertion, it’s just how much of it you’re doing. Imagine if someone said, “Hold this paper clip straight out in front of you.” You might say, “okay.” But if they said, “Now do that for eight hours with no breaks,” you’d feel different about it. That’s kind of what we ask our eyes to do all day long.
For the blue light coming off the screen, we’ve got a whole separate post coming up next!
Lastly, maybe you’re wondering if you’ve got eye strain and don’t know it. The short answer: maybe. On the one hand, your eyes are really good at telling you if they hurt. On the other, if something feels “off” for long enough, we can just get used to it and think it is normal. If your shoulder hurts suddenly, you’ll pay attention to it. If it hurts every morning when you wake up for a year, then it’s easy to write it off as an annoyance you have to live with. Same thing with your eyes!
If you think about your eyes or your vision more than a couple times a day, it’s likely that you’ve gotten used to a problem that you don’t need to have. It could be fixable, in which case life could become a little bit easier. That’s a worthwhile New New Year’s resolution.