Eye Care for Writers – What You Can Do To Save Your Vision
If you’re like me, you take your vision for granted, and it takes a shocking wake-up call like I had to learn what we need to do to take better care of our eyes.
What can you do to maintain a healthy vision for reading and writing? Here are some ideas you can put into action.
Taking Vision for Granted
It’s true unless we’ve had eye problems or know someone who is blind, we take our sight for granted. Yes, there ate tools for blind writers, and I admire the people who must use them. However, if you can do things to help maintain your eyesight, then you want to do them.
Most of us don’t even know how vision works. Let me offer you a two-minute overview before I talk about what you can do to keep your vision sharp for the best part of your life.
Here’s a diagram of an eye.
1. Light-the image of what you see- enters the cornea and the amount of light is controlled by the pupil, the colored part that makes you a blue or brown-eyed beauty.
2. The light hits the retina which, though a complex system, turns the light into signals the brain can interpret.
3. The lens focuses the light on the retina, and the retina sends the perceived image to your brain via the optic nerve.
Is this over-simplified? You bet. I’m a writer, not a doctor, so none of what I say is medical advice.
Your eyes are a miracle, but things can go wrong.
- Cataracts may cover your lens that will need surgery.
- You may get broken blood vessels inside your eye that need laser searing.
- You may get macular degeneration, which gives you dark spots that are the mark of failing vision.
In my case, my retina began to peel off the back of my eye and it seemed like a dark curtain was blocking my vision. I went to my Ophthalmologist and he scheduled me for immediate surgery.
The eye surgeon did what is called Scleral buckling surgery. He attached a silicone band around my eye to reshape it so my retina would adhere. At the same time, he removed the vitreous fluid from my eye and replaced it with special oil.
He also inserted a bubble of gas. When you hold your head as instructed for a few weeks, that gas bubble puts pressure on your retina and helps reattach it to the back of the eye.
Just a few decades ago, this operation took many hours and was very dangerous.
Today, it can be done in a surgical center, not a hospital, and you go home the same day.
Still, it takes a month or two to recover your sight fully, and in some cases, you don’t get it all back. I’m regaining my vision after some complications that required a second surgery.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Sight
I asked my eye surgeon if there was anything I could have done to keep my retina from detaching. He said, no, that it was likely hereditary, even though I’m unaware of any family history related to that.
My eye surgeon said that maintaining overall eye health is the best insurance against blindness. What are some of those things?
Wear Eye Protection
Most writers probably don’t spend much time in a workshop. But even if you spend 5 minutes working on a car or cabinets, you want to wear eye protection. It takes just an instant for a wood or metal fragment or some other foreign object or substance to hit your eye, and it could cause eye damage that will last a lifetime.
There are over 300,000 eye injuries each year and they say 90% of them would be preventable if people would just wear eye protection.
Blue Screen Eye Protection
Closer to home for writers is the danger of the blue light emitted by computer screens. Is it true that too much time in from of a screen will damage your eyes over time?
You may be surprised to learn that the jury is still out on that. There is no solid research either way.
Companies that sell glasses that filter blue light emitted by computer screens will tell you that you’ll be blind next month if you don’t buy their product.
The problem with such questionable claims is that humans have been exposed to this part of the blue light spectrum from the dawn of history. It comes from the sun and it is what makes our sky look blue.
In fact, about one-third of all visible light is considered high-energy visible (HEV) or “blue” light.
What is the vision hazard of a computer screen? Blue screens may disrupt sleep or disturb other aspects of your health or circadian rhythm. This affects a large number of people, but it’s preventable.
For example, in Windows, you go into Settings, select Display, and toggle the Night Switch. You can set the hours so it kicks in before you go to sleep or you can keep in on all the time.
Everyday Causes of Vision Loss
What are the everyday causes of vision loss? According to a Harvard Medical School report, the real vision risks come from aging, smoking, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and being overweight.
These things, beyond eye-piercing accidents, are major contributors to macular degeneration or blindness.
Action You Can Take Today
You say, “I’m just a regular person. What can I do each day to help preserve my vision?”
Control Your Diet
Being overweight is bad, so you want to lose weight to help maintain your eyesight.
On top of that, you want to eat more fish. Regular fish consumption reduces the risk of macular degeneration. The protection comes from Omega-3 in the fish.
Eat green leafy vegetables. They have high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants concentrated in the macula. This will help preserve your vision.
Make an effort to consume more zinc. Get it from a multivitamin or from foods like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, barley, chicken, or seafood like crabs and oysters.
Get More Exercise
Believe it or not, numerous scientific students have demonstrated that exercise enhances eye health.
You can do all the normal types of exercise, but walking for 30-minutes a day or more gives you the fresh air and natural sunlight that promotes eye health.
Become More Eye Conscious
Does eyestrain damage your vision? You may get bleary-eyed in the short-term, but sconce says there is no long-term effect.
But, you know eye strain can be a warning that you are not taking good care of your eyes in other ways. Here are a few things you can do to relieve eye strain:
Get up every 30-40 minutes and move around. Set a timer if you must to remind you. Just 5 minutes away from your screen will enhance eye comfort.
When you get up, go outside and look at some distance scene. When I go out, I see a distant mountain peak, and refocusing on it has a relaxing effect.
Here’s a simple trick to reduce eyestrain when you’re at your desk. On the Chrome browser and most software like Microsoft Word, hold down the CTL key and roll the mouse wheel forward to increase the page size.
Remember, Windows 10 also has Ease of Access settings, so you can set the default font size for program menu text, cursor size, set high contrast, and make other such changes.
This is small but important. As you write, break your stare and flutter your eyes periodically to let your own tears moisten the surface of your eyes. My ophthalmologist wants me to use dry eye lubricant that you can buy over the counter at any pharmacy. It helps.
Remember, I’m a writer, not a doctor. My recommendation is that you take care of your eyes and in the ways, I’ve described. More importantly, be self-aware enough to see a doctor if your eyes go weird in any way.
You want to see an Ophthalmologist about suspected eye disease or dysfunction, not an Optometrist in almost all most cases. An Ophthalmologist is a Medical Doctor that deals with disease or injury to the eye.
An Optometrist tests your vision for glasses or contacts. The deal in corrective lenses. Some Optometrists say they know all about diseases of the eye, but professionally that’s like a Chiropractor who says a spinal adjustment will cure cancer. Specialties are good but go to the right doctor for the right problem.
Eye malfunctions, diseases, and injuries require an Ophthalmologist, nothing less.
So, take care of your eyes. They are your window to the world.