Eye Problems

Eye problems

Most people hardly give a thought to the amazing work our eyes do to enable us to see, until things start to go wrong. It's often at work (or school) that people begin to realise they have a problem.

Why do we get eye strain?

That doesn't mean that work is harmful to your eyes (although it can be) but that work or school is where we most need to see well.

One in three working people have visual defects that have never even been diagnosed

We may be stressed, tired, trying to read tiny print or study tiny diagrams, and using our brains to think out problems fast, relying on all our senses. And so often these days, work also means sitting staring at a computer screen or VDU which puts extra demands on our eyes.

Regular eye checks

So looking after your eyes at work is vital. But many people don't even have regular sight tests. It's estimated that as many as one in three working people have visual defects (such as short or long sightedness) which have never even been diagnosed or have not been properly corrected. These problems may come to light when you do visually demanding work.

Make sure you have your eyes tested at least once a year or more often if you have symptoms. You may be able to demand that your employer provides regular eye tests especially if you work at a VDU.

Symptoms suggesting eye problems are:
  • Problems seeing or reading
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Watery or dry eyes
Eye strain

Even if your eyes are healthy, your job can put extra strain on your eyes or cause other eye-health problems. Eye strain means a sensation of tired eyes, which may be accompanied by increasing difficulty focussing or seeing, dryness, headache and general discomfort.

Working at a computer screen or VDU greatly increases the risk of eye strain and may lead to computer vision syndrome.

Tips to reduce eye strain

Make sure that the environment that you work in is eye-friendly:
  • Arrange your desk so that you are a comfortable distance from the screen with a good posture and hand control at the keyboard. Your eyes should be about level with the top of the screen
  • Work from documents at an equal distance to your eyes as the screen so that you don't have to keep readjusting your focus. Use a vertical document holder attached to the side of your screen if it helps
  • Adjust the monitor controls until the brightness of the screen feels comfortable
  • Select a style and size of font (typeface) for your work which is most comfortable for your eyes to read - small fonts can actually causes rises in blood pressure and stress levels
  • Make sure the contrast between light from the monitor and the room behind it is not too great, so that your eyes don't continually have to adjust between the two. Don't, for example, place your screen in front of a window or a very dark wall
  • Light the screen from above or behind you with a table lamp. It's generally recommended that the background lighting level is about 300-500 lux
  • Cover the monitor with an anti-glare device
  • Control levels of humidity in the air (dry air attracts dust and irritates the eyes) by placing vases of flowers or damp plants, or misting the air (but not too near the computer!)
  • Take frequent short breaks (5-10 min per hour) allowing your eyes to refocus on something distant
  • While working swap frequently to tasks that don't involve the keyboard