Not long ago, I was working at my kitchen table and my son was asking questions about my project. I explained it as I typed away, and after a few minutes he interrupted me midsentence to say, “Mom. How do you DO that?! You don’t even BLINK!” I stopped for a minute and realized he was right. And when you consider how many hours I spend in front of a screen each day, be it my laptop or phone, it’s no wonder I’m having issues with dry eye and eye strain. I remember a friend of mine telling me about a blog he came across from somewhere like Sight Origins that looked at vision and eye health, along with what happened with my son, I started thinking about the signs and symptoms of eye strain.
- Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes.
- Watery or dry eyes.
- Blurred or double vision.
- Sore neck, shoulders or back.
- Increased sensitivity to light.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open.
Yeah, that’s me. I’m betting it’s a lot of you out there, too. Too much screen time can lead to a long list of eye issues, so being proactive about it is moving right on up to the top of my priority list.
Easy Ways to Ease Eye Strain
According to WebMD, your work habits can make a big difference. Don’t worry – you don’t have to change careers. Little tweaks to your workstation make a big difference! Here are a few tips they recommend for preventing and/or easing eye strain.
- Place your screen 20-26 inches away from your eyes and a little below eye level.
- Be sure to clean smudges and dust from your screen so the picture stays crisp, without glare or reflections.
- Install a quick and easy glare filter on your screen
I find this one particularly helpful:
- Every twenty minutes or so, look away from your screen and focus on something across the room. Do this for 20 seconds, and make a conscious effort to blink, slowly, 20 times. (Those blinks feel really good, and that’s when you can tell it’s working.)
The lighting around your desk and screen is also a really big consideration when it comes to keeping eye strain to a minimum. Try not to work in dim light, and that “browsing on your phone before you go to sleep” thing? It’s really not good for your eyes (not to mention the brain stimulation that disrupts rest). If you just can’t break the habit, at least leave the light on or turn down the brightness on your phone. (Check to see if your phone has a nighttime mode setting.)
With workstation tweaks checked off my list, I started to think about what else I could do. So, being a foodie at heart and advocate for healing from the inside out, I wondered: Is there anything I can do to my diet to improve my eye health?
Nutrition and Eye Health
Our friends over at New Hope Network recently published an article about eye strain, and how the macular carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may protect eyes from prolonged use of digital screens, according to a new study. Here’s an excerpt that explains the theory:
Lutein and zeaxanthin isomers—known as the macular carotenoids—are natural filters of high-energy blue light. High-energy blue light reaches deep into the eye and can harm the macula—the region of the eye responsible for the highest visual acuity—by promoting the production of free radicals. Short-term effects can cause eye fatigue while long-term exposure can lead to progressive loss of visual function.
The B.L.U.E. study (an acronym for Blue Light User Exposure) was the subject of a recent paper, “Effects of macular carotenoid supplementation on visual performance, sleep quality, and adverse physical symptoms in those with high screen time exposure,” published in Foods 2017. This is the first study to examine the effect of macular carotenoids supplementation to protect visual health and performance, reduce eye strain and fatigue, even improve sleep quality, during prolonged exposure to blue light emitting from digital screens.
photo credit: New Hope Network
“The effects of blue light on vision isn’t new. However, 10 years ago we saw a surge in near field technology holding or using devices within arm’s length, resulting in increased complaints around high screen use—neck pain, eye strain and fatigue, headaches,” said Dr. James Stringham, the lead author of the paper. “This has led to an opportunity with supplementation—a simple mode of therapy with specific nutrients that have a wealth of benefits as they deposit in the eye. After six months of supplementation, we saw significant reduction around 30 percent in these symptoms and significant improvement in measures of visual performance and protection.”
Visit Delicious Living to read the rest of the article.
- Egg yolks
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens (especially when cooked)
- Romaine lettuce
- Garden peas and Brussels sprouts.
That’s not to say that eating these foods will completely reverse any eye health problems you might have, but it’s hard to argue with the recommendation to add more greens to your diet. The science is pretty clear on the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin, and our eyes are worth the effort, don’t you think? At the top of my to-do list is putting our backyard chickens’ eggs to use and actually eating the veggie omelets I make instead of just giving them to my kids. (Can you relate, moms?)
And c’mon now…garden peas? I didn’t even plan that. Here’s to your eye health!