Q: I’m a software professional who works on the computer for more than 12 hours a day. Lately, I have been experiencing eye irritation. My doctor gave me artificial tears (eye drops). He said that my tear content had decreased. Are there any good habits to follow to keep this condition from worsening? Any nutritional implications?
A: Eyestrain is a very common complaint of computer users, regardless of their age. In fact, complaints of eye fatigue have escalated in the past few years with the increase in, as well as the prolonged use of, computers at work and home. Artificial tears, the answer for the complaints of the majority of computer users, may be especially beneficial for individuals with "dry" eyes. Eye fatigue may set in after you have been focusing on the computer screen for long periods of time. Glasses that have been prescribed for reading will not work for the computer unless you sit at a distance of 13-16" from the computer. This distance, of course, is not very comfortable for most people. Measure the distance from your eyes to the computer screen; it will likely be 18-24". You may therefore benefit from a special pair of dedicated "computer" glasses. Computer glasses are set for this "intermediate" distance from the eye and will significantly reduce eyestrain, especially if you are staring at the computer screen for extremely long periods of time.
Other sources of eye fatigue to consider: Glare. Make sure that the computer is away from glare sources, including lights or external sources (outside light) that may reflect off the computer screen. Low-resolution monitors are another source of eye fatigue. The newer flat panel LCD and LED screens have been found to be better than the old CRT monitors, when used for long periods of time. You can also eliminate glare with special polarizing filters that fit over the computer screen. Taking breaks away from the computer will lessen fatigue as well.
As for nutrition, unhealthy dietary behaviors, as well as an increase in obesity, has been found in young people, especially boys, who are involved in sedentary activities such as using the computer for long periods of time. Exercise, as well as a healthy diet, is therefore strongly advised in addition to the other recommendations above.
It is also advised that every computer user, regardless of age, have a comprehensive eye examination from an optometrist or ophthalmologist to determine whether prescriptive lenses would be beneficial in reducing eyestrain. It is also advised that you discuss with your eye doctor the current approach to managing dry eye. – Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, Chief of Low Vision Programs at Lighthouse International
Q: What daily lutein dosage does most recent research recommend?
A: Research with the Macuscope (which measures the amount of lutein in the macula) shows that the macula can absorb no more than 20mgm of lutein. Most vitamins on the market have only 2-6 mgm. Many health food stores carry the 20 mgm, but foods that contain lutein are important too – colorful vegetables have lutein in their fiber – anything yellow, or red. There are no side effects to increasing your lutein intake unless you are allergic to marigolds or carrots. Lutein goes directly to the macula nowhere else. – Eleanor Faye, Medical Director of Lighthouse International
Q: I have started seeing spider web like figures floating across my right eyeball. Is this something that will pass or should I be worried about this? I currently don’t have health insurance.
A: Any time that a person sees spider web/cobweb images, thousands of small black dots or floaters, or curtain/shadow over their vision, it can be a sign of retinal detachment. It is advised that you have a dilated eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to determine the cause of the floating figures in your vision. Most hospitals and clinics have programs established for people without health insurance so you can still receive health/vision care. You need to speak with the clinic manager to discuss your options. – Linda Pang, O.D. at Lighthouse International