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How to keep your eyes in tip-top working condition

| Wellness | Safety | Healthy You | Aging Well

A man rubbing his eyes under his glasses

3 things to know about caring for your hard-working eyes

Do you spend a lot of your workday staring into screens? These days, many jobs require at least some interaction with computers.

Here are some key tips from Lee Azpiroz, OD, a PeaceHealth eye doctor in Eugene, Oregon, to help keep your eyes in top working condition:

1. Give your eyes the love they deserve

  • Get a regular eye exam. Plan to have your eyes checked by a professional at least every other year, unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Regular exams will help you and your doctor see if or when your vision changes. “As you get older, ask your doctor if you need your eyes checked more often,” says Dr. Azpiroz. Also, certain health conditions can be a reason to be seen more frequently.
  • Correct your vision. If your provider recommends or prescribes corrective lenses, be sure to wear them. If you’re not used to wearing glasses or contact lenses, talk with your doctor about getting fitted or other ways to make them more comfortable.
  • Take care of your lenses. Spots on your eyeglass lenses can cause eyestrain. Use a soft cloth at least once a day to clean them. Use a light touch to avoid scratching them. Using fresh contact lenses or regularly clean re-usable ones is even more important since wearing dirty lenses can lead to infections or worse.
  • Think to blink. We don’t usually have to think about blinking, but when you’re working intently on a work project or watching something closely on your phone, your blink rate can go down, he says.
  • Use eye drops, when necessary. Did you know that tears are a sign your eyes are dry? Keeping your eyes moist will help prevent many issues.

2. Set up your workspace to support eye health

Your workspace should help you stay healthier. Here are a few keys to watch for when it comes to your eye health:

  • Screen placement & display settings. The top of your screen should be at or slightly below eye level. “If you’re looking up, lower it. Looking up at a screen exposes more of your eyes, causing dryness,” says Dr. Azpiroz. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with the brightness or contrast on your monitor to find a setting that’s comfortable.
  • Air flow. Whether you’re staying cool or warm, take note of air vents or fans set to blow air in your direction. More direct air will tend to dry out your eyes.
  • Lighting. Set up your lighting to prevent glare. You’ll want to avoid having a window behind your screen, which will make your eyes work harder. Lower overall light settings and softer task lighting can also be easier on your eyes.

If you share a workstation with others, talk about what can be done to make the space fit everyone’s needs. Learn more about setting up a healthy workspace.

3. Practice good eye-health habits day and night

  • Think 20/20/20. “This is something I tell all of my patients. Every 20 minutes, take a forceful blink, then look 20 feet away for 20 seconds,” says Dr. Azpiroz. This goes for not only office workers, but also kids playing video games or other intensive screen-based activities.
  • Wear task-specific glasses. You might not need corrective lenses all of the time, but as you get older you might find “reading” glasses helpful for up-close work. Talk with your eye doctor about your best options.
  • Blue light lenses. You’ve probably heard of “blue light” that is given off by electronic devices. Non-prescription glasses are available with a coating to counteract blue light. The coating can also be applied to prescription lenses. “There’s some controversy about these glasses,” says Dr. Azpiroz. "Some people swear by them. Others say there’s no scientific backing.” The important thing, he notes, is to not expect these glasses to protect your eyes in other situations. “In other words, they’re not a suitable substitute for sunglasses.”
  • Wear sunglasses (and a wide-brimmed hat) outside, when it’s sunny or when you’re at the beach or in areas that reflect the sun. For example, even partly cloudy conditions at the beach or on the ski slope pose some risks due to glare off the snow or water. (Read our blog post on picking your next pair of sunglasses.)
  • Prepare for quality shut-eye. Every part of you—but especially your eyes and your brain—benefit from a good night sleep. Start your healthy bedtime routine by steering clear of screens—TV, computer, tablet or phone—one hour before you go to bed. Dr. Azpiroz has his cell phone automatically switch to a nighttime display setting every night to reduce the emission of blue light until the following morning. Unless you need the alarm feature on your phone to wake you, you might consider turning it off altogether or leaving it in another room.