Larry Wan, DO, is an Optometrist in San Jose, California, specializing in computer vision syndrome. Here is an excerpt from his interview on the Sharon Kleyne Hour syndicated talk radio show on September 14, 2009 (www.modavox.worldtalkradio.com). Continue reading
Philip Paden, MD, Chief of Staff of an Ophthalmology and LASIK surgery clinic in Medford, Oregon and Medical Director for Bio-Logic Aqua Research. He is an authority of computer vision syndrome, dry eye and preventive eye health.
Sharon: Could you talk a little about eye health?
Dr. Paden: Most people would rather be deaf or crippled than blind. Sight is extremely precious to us. Interestingly, our eyes are about the same as they were 100,000 years ago. However, our environment had changed drastically so that far greater demands are made on them. This change is mostly in three areas:
- We live much longer. Instead of living to 30 or 40, we typically live to 80 or 90. That means our eyes are more likely to wear out. Problems with the cornea and retina often need to be repaired, and the delicate glands that produce the tears begin to fail.
- We are subjected to city air, with its high ozone and particulate pollution, inversion layers, etc., which are dehydrating and irritating to the eyes.
- Indoor air is also dehydrating and irritating. Technologically controlled environments were supposed to be the final word, but we ended up with forced-air heating and cooling, insulated walls and window, and a myriad of chemicals. There is often no fresh air from the outside, dust and bacteria are re-circulated, and the humidity can get dangerously low.
Marguerite McDonald, MD, is credited with performing the world’s first LASER eye surgery in 1981. Today, Dr. McDonald is internationally famous and dedicated to eye health education. She was interviewed on the Sharon Kleyne Hour radio talk show (www.modavox/worldtalkradio.com) on October 15, 2007.
Sharon: Do you have any recommendations about vision and computers?
Marguerite: Yes! The average blink rate for your eyes is 20-30 times per minute. When working at a computer, the rate drops to 3-5 times per minute. This can cause situational dry eye even if your vision is perfect.
S: Have you encountered computer vision syndrome in your practice?
M: Frequently. Symptoms are drowsiness, eyes that burn or itch, and blurred vision. Fluctuating vision is also a symptom, where you strain and blink to pull your vision into focus.
S: Have you been approached by companies who have many computer operators?
M: A few times. My primary recommendation is that they move the desk chair up or the computer down so there is a 15-20 degree angle between the eye and the screen, with the screen lower. That way, eyelids are partially closed when viewing the screen. I also recommend taking a break every 45 minutes, preferably spent looking at far objects.
S: Could you go over the symptoms of dry eye again?
M: Redness, fluctuating vision, slight itching, drowsiness, the need to press down on your eyelids. Excessive tearing can also be a symptom. Eyes are usually OK in the morning but as they get dryer during the day, tiny ulcerations develop on the cornea, which causes reflex tearing. The tearing often goes away after ten minutes. Reflex tears protect eyes from infection and improve vision but it is far better if your regular baseline tears do this.
It happens to everybody. You’re driving your car on a long road trip and suddenly your eyes start burning and you can’t keep them opened. You start nodding off, and sensing imminent disaster, you quickly pull off the road and take a nap. In an hour or so, you continue on your way, feeling much better.
But what would you do if you were an airline pilot and that happened? Or a tank driver during a war? Or an ambulance driver rushing to the hospital?
Actually, the cause may not be fatigue. Often, the cause is a reduction in the moisture content of the delicate tear film covering the external surface of your eyeballs. Pollution, heat, fatigue, car air-conditioning, and intense concentration (with not enough blinking), can all cause tear film moisture loss. Loss of tear film moisture increases the concentration of salts and other natural substances resulting in the familiar burning sensation. When you take a nap, your eyes are closed and your body is able to restore the depleted moisture.
The solution: Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water (which will also help assure that you pull over and rest occasionally), make sure you blink often enough, and keep a pH Balanced water mist spray nearby as you drive.
University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Hilary Beaver, MD
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Science
If you use eye makeup, such as mascara, eye liner and eye shadow, remember to remove it before going to sleep, cautions an eye specialist in the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology.
This caution might seem unnecessary or inconvenient, but when you are tired, removing your makeup may be forgotten or postponed until morning, says Dr. Hilary Beaver, assistant professor of comprehensive services in the Department of Ophthalmology.
Removing eye makeup before sleeping is important. If eye makeup is not removed daily there is an increased possibility of an allergic reaction or contact irritation. Repeated application over irritated skin will increase the subsequent skin reaction.
An allergic reaction to eye makeup usually occurs on the thin, delicate skin around the eye, she explains. Should makeup particles fall into the eye, that, too, could lead to an allergic reaction.
Redness in the eye is one symptom of such allergic reactions, especially if the redness is accompanied by itching and pain, Beaver says.
“It’s more difficult to locate the cause of the allergic reaction if a person uses different brands of mascara, eye liner and eye shadow.”
If more than one brand of eye makeup is used, you might try the same one for several days in a row and keep a diary of symptoms. This may help narrow down the likely form and brand of eye makeup that is causing the allergic reaction, Beaver suggests.
Another possible solution is to try a hypoallergenic brand of eye makeup. The UI clinician notes that hypoallergenic makeup has ingredients that have been found to cause fewer allergic reactions in people.
If changing brands does not eliminate the allergy symptoms, you might wish to consult a physician, Beaver says.
It is hard to imagine that prior to the 1940’s, and going all the way back to the dawn of time, people just toughed out the summer heat (except the lucky few who lived in caves). At the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it is probable that John Hancock and the guys, in their elegant eighteenth century clothing, were drenched with perspiration. They didn’t bathe that regularly, either, because their water was all drawn from hand pumps.
Air-conditioning offers obvious health benefits for those with heart conditions, pollen allergies and skin problems exacerbated by sweating. It does, however, pose a few problems. For one thing, it moves air around, which tends to whip up dead skin particles (“H.flora”) and bacteria that can spread disease and cause eye and skin dehydration and itching. Also, constant wind from the air-conditioner can make beneficial moisture evaporate more rapidly from skin and eyes. And air-conditioning causes air to lose humidity (cooler air is not capable of holding as much moisture as warmer air—hence the condensation on the outside of the air conditioner), so the resulting air is not only cooler but drier.
Natural air exchange is important in all seasons because outdoor air is usually “fresher” and contains fewer bacteria than indoor air. It’s a good idea to turn the air-conditioning off once in a while in summer, open the windows and let an exhaust fan scour out the air in your house (not a bad idea in winter, either).