Nutrition for Vision

While most people don't realize it, what you eat can affect how you see! Our eyes are as much a part of our bodies as any other organ, so they are influenced by our nutrition. New research has confirmed that nutrition can make a difference in our eye health. Most affected are conditions of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Dry Eye Syndrome, Cataracts and Glaucoma. Dr. Anshel now lectures on these conditions and how to resolve them with proper nutrition.

Read More on Dr. Anshel's nutrition website >>

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  Vision Health Management:
Visual Ergonomics In The Workplace

Vision is our most precious sense. Our eyes are in constant use every waking minute of every day. The way we use our eyes can determine how well we work throughout our lifetime. Over eighty percent of our learning is mediated through our eyes, indicating the important role our vision plays in our daily activities. Vision disturbance is a silent enemy that only appears after a long period of continued stress.

In the past two decades, computers have taken industry and business by storm. It is estimated that there are now over seventy-five million Americans using computers regularly. We are increasingly becoming an information society and the price we are paying is our eyesight.

The human eye has been essentially unchanged for over 40,000 years in our evolution. However, in the last one hundred years or so we have been gradually altering our viewing tasks from predominantly distance to near work. Today we spend a disproportionate amount of time involved in close work. To adapt to this change, our eyes have become increasingly near-sighted. Researchers have confirmed this shift toward increased near-sightedness in our society. This is much more prominent in the population of computer users.

Let's look at the different factors that effect our eyes while using a computer.

The Display Screen

Using a computer differs significantly from traditional reading in many ways. There is a difference in looking at a white piece of paper with black letters that reflects light versus looking at a (usually) white screen with various colored letters that is self-illuminated. The additional light coming from the screen dictates that less surrounding light is necessary. The light emanates from the screen by a process that continually refreshes a phosphor coating so the image doesn't fade. This refreshing of the coating must be accomplished at a rate of more than sixty times per second. If it occurs at a slower rate, the user will experience the "flicker" that is similar to that of an old fluorescent light. People experience this flicker differently and different screens have different flicker rates. This can be a very distracting and stressful experience for the terminal user. One can reduce flicker by dimming the brightness of the screen. However, that can lead to other potential problems which will be discussed later.

The formation of the letters is also a concern. Research has shown that productivity and performance is reduce when looking at a display screen vs. paper. Although the quality of the images on a display screen are improving, they do not yet approach that of ink on paper.

Eye Position

There is a considerable difference in the normal eye position when looking at the terminal as compared to reading. Conventional reading is normally done while looking at a 14-16" working distance with the reading material held in a lowered (about forty degrees) position. The straight-ahead position used by many computer users is unnatural. The muscles must fight one another to achieve a balance and maintain the image correctly in the eyes. This can lead to fatigue, eyestrain or headaches. Ideally, the center of the screen should be 7-10 inches below your horizontal line of sight.


Glare is any extraneous scattering of light. There are many sources of glare in most office situations: improperly positioned lamps, fluorescent lights, outdoor light, highly reflective surfaces or any illuminated object. The glass surface a computer terminal can be highly reflective. While the eyes are in the straight-ahead position they are more susceptible to outside sources of light, especially those coming from the ceiling.

There are many ways to reduce glare. The first way should be with an anti-glare screen that is placed over the screen. The most common screens are mesh or glass and each has it's own advantages. Glass screens are generally better but may lead to further reflections if it doesn’t have an anti-reflective coating. Although they are more bothersome to keep clean and are more expensive, they do an excellent job of reducing glare. Of these, circular polarized are the best. They block glare but allow the normal light from the monitor to come through.

Secondly, reduce glare by positioning the screen properly. While the screen is off, angle it so that you can see no reflections of any lights on the front surface of the screen.

Another solution to glare may be a bit more difficult to control. Traditional lens panels on fluorescent lights are often a significant source of glare. These units can be retrofit with louvers that direct the light straight downward instead of allowing scattering. This will create a dimmer working environment but will be much more soothing on the eyes. Research has found that most offices are much too bright for terminal work. The surrounding illumination should only be three times as bright or less as the screen that you are using.

If glasses are worn while using a computer, you'll probably benefit from a very slight pink or rose colored tint in the lens. This is a barely noticeable tint but will help to offset the poor color definition of fluorescent light around the office.

Computer Glasses

If you are wearing glasses regularly, the prescription in them is usually designed to help you see better at a distance, while driving for example. However, the power required for clear distant vision may be different from what will make your eyes most comfortable at 20-25 inches. How your eyes focus and coordinate together will determine what the proper prescription will be for glasses at the close distance.

If you haven't worn glasses at all before, get your eyes examined by your eyecare professional. Be sure to tell him or her that you work on a computer and try to give them as much information about it as possible, i.e., working distance, lighting conditions, amount of time spent at the terminal, symptoms you experience, etc. Very often special computer glasses will be prescribed simply to ease the effect of long hours looking at the screen.

If you are over the age of 40, you probably have (or soon will) experienced difficulty changing focus to near objects. This is the usual decrease in the eyes' ability to focus as we age. Glasses used for reading and computer work can let you function normally again. If you already wear glasses for distance and experience difficulty focusing, then bifocals may be in your future. The traditional bifocal is not well suited for computer vision so an alternate choice may be necessary. New lenses that have no lines and provide for a full range of distance, intermediate and near vision are available so be sure you ask for as many alternatives as possible.

Contact Lenses

If you have contact lenses, you also may be experiencing dryness and discomfort while working on your terminal. The first problem can often be contributed to the environment. If you work in a room that has computer hardware in the area, air filters are often used to dry the air to make the conditions optimal for the computer. This will, of course leave less moisture in the air causing the lenses to dry. Additionally the cooling fans of the units themselves draw more dust into the area creating more problems. There is also a tendency to blink less when doing intense close work (see below). Lubricating drops recommended by your doctor will help relieve the symptoms of dryness.

Vision Therapy

Sometimes taking precautions and/or using glasses are just not enough. If your visual system is not able to make necessary adjustments to work effectively, you could probably benefit from vision therapy.

Vision therapy is a program offered by optometrists to teach people how to use their eyes properly and with less effort. This is done by using an integrated program of techniques and procedures that help the person in improving all aspects of vision, including general coordination, balance, hand-eye coordination, eye movements, eye teaming, and focusing efficiency. It is done on patients of all ages for any number of different problems. Ask your local Optometric Society for the name of a doctor in your area that specializes in vision therapy.

Computer Vision Testing

A recently introduced software program has shown to be very effective in conducting a vision screening test on the computer. The Eye-Computer Ergonomic Evaluation (Eye-CEE) System for Computer Users® consists of an on-line questionnaire and vision tests which can determine if your symptoms are related to your vision or to your environment. The program produces reports that can be taken to your doctor so that they can do a more effective examination of your vision. It has shown to be the most effective way to determine computer -related visual stress.

Self Eye Care

There are many things you can do for yourself to reduce the eyestrain you feel while working at the computer. I've narrowed these down to a "3 B's" approach: Blink, Breathe and Break.

Blink: Blinking is an automatic function. It also happens to be the fastest reflex in the body! We usually blink at a rate of about 12-15 times a minute in normal situations. Unfortunately, we have never figured out what a normal situation is yet. We blink more often when we are excited, stimulated, anxious, talking and doing general physical activity. We blink much less frequently while quiet, which includes reading, thinking and concentrating on a particular task. This staring can strain the eyes. Blinking allows the eye to rest for a short time and it also cleans and re-wets the eye surface to maintain clear vision. Because blinking is so automatic it might take some concentration initially to keep up a normal blink rate while working at a terminal. Just being aware of this concern will allow you to blink more normally.

Breathe: Our breath is our life. Our entire body is governed by the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide from our breathing process. When we reach a stressful situation in our activities, we tend to hold our breath to "break through" the situation. This is because the breath can control our muscle activity. If we hold our breath, we may tighten muscles in places where we are not even aware. Correct breathing- even and steady- can relax the eye muscles as well.

Breaks: With the amount of intense concentration we use doing computer work it is not surprising that we need more breaks. Our eyes were just not designed to be used at that close distance for a long period of time. I've devised a plan of breaks that will allow you to do the maximum amount of work and still allow you to relax your eyes. These are called: Micro-, Mini- and Maxi-Breaks.

Micro Break: Also known as the "20/20/20" rule, this break is only for about twenty seconds and should be taken about every twenty minutes. Look far away from your terminal (at least twenty feet) and breathe and blink easily. Keep your eyes moving while looking at different distant objects. This should not interfere with your work nor your concentration.

Mini Break: Take this break about every hour; it should last about five minutes. Stand up and stretch. I often recommend eye exercises be done during this break so the eyes can flex and be used in different seeing situations. Ask your eye doctor which exercises he or she would recommend.

Maxi Break: This could be a "coffee" break or lunch. The maxi-break is a "get up and move" type of break that will allow your blood to start flowing again and get you more energized. These should be taken every few hours.

There is no one solution to all types of problems encountered with computer use. However, education and common sense can help to reduce your potential risk. Our productivity is supposed to be increased with computer use but it should not be at the expense of our eyesight. Hopefully we can co-exist with computers and use them to their fullest potential. The answer to many of these problems may be right before your eyes!


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