By Dr. Richard Barnstein
One of my responsibilities as an eye doctor is to emphasize the importance of having annual eye health examinations. Eye health issues (From conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts), binocular or focusing issues (like amblyopia, and convergence excess), and refractive conditions (like astigmatism , hyperopia , presbyopia, and myopia) can all lead to difficulty with near related visual tasks. Be sure that you and your family members have annual eye health examinations. These tips below do not replace either having an annual eye health examination, or visting your eye doctor if you have any visual or eye health problems.
Five Simple Tips for Eye Strain at Near
1. Good posture: Whether you’re lying or sitting as you perform near tasks, having good posture can dramatically help with eye strain. If not, then you may be reading where one eye is farther away from the reading material than the other eye. If the head is angled away from the material, one eye’s view of the near task can often be completely blocked by the nose. Sit up straight, and face the reading material where both eyes (assuming you have the ability to use both eyes to read and see) appear equidistant from the reading material. Children are often the biggest culprits of poor posture when performing near tasks.
2. Incline on the reading material if it’s on a table or flat surface: If a page is lying on a flat surface when you read it, the top part of the page is typically farther from the eye than the bottom part of the page. Then when you read across, line by line, from top to bottom, the distance between the reading material and your eyes is constantly changing. This causes the eyes to work harder. By putting the reading material on an incline, it makes the top and bottom of the reading material more equidistant, thus making the eyes work less than when the material is on a flat surface.
3. Good lighting and contrast on your book/near task: With Ipads, computers, and smart phones, we can usually have decent contrast. If the material is a book, or paper, it’s very important to have plenty of direct lighting on the reading material. This sounds simple, but too many people take this for granted, and then wonder why they get eye fatigue after reading for short periods of time.
4. Move your smartphone/ computer/ book/ ect… a little bit farther away from your eyes: This can be especially effective for those approaching 40 and beyond! (I fall in that category. Yikes!) This doesn’t mean that you have to hold the near task as far from you as possible. Just be sure that it’s not too close to your face, and if you do get eye strain, try moving the near task a few inches farther from your eyes than you normally do. Children often may lie on the floor or on their beds, and read or use hand held devices where it’s waaaaaay too close to their faces. (I have to remind my kids often to move their hand held devices farther from their faces as they’re, “in the zone”, playing on the devices.)
5. If you have more than one simultaneous near task, try to make the multiple near tasks more equidistant: Many of my patients work on more than one monitor, or have a computer and also near-work beneath the monitor. If they have eye strain, I’ll often recommend (after they have their eyes examined, and updated their glasses/contacts if necessary) that they try to make the monitors and multiple near tasks more equidistant, to reduce eye strain.
Hope this helps! Have a great day!