VISION AND CLOSE WORK

It is interesting to note how eyesight has evolved. The vision system used to be more about looking far afield for what could be hunted and eaten – and what could hunt and eat us.  These days, people are spending more time with their gazes fixed on their computer or TV screens or cell phones. There are certain physical dynamics to this everyday phenomenon.  There is a lens inside the eye that flexes and focuses, so when we look at things up close, that lens has to work extra hard.

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SEE HOW YOU’RE DRIVING

Unlike some other skills we use in our everyday lives, driving relies almost exclusively on our sense of sight. We feel our feet on the ground as we move about or know we are sitting in a chair; we are fully aware of our surroundings. This sensory information lets us know where the ground or chair is. When you are driving, there is no movement of your body. It is totally about your vision and how precisely your two eyes work together. If your eyes are not aligned perfectly, you may think an object is closer or farther away....

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CATARACTS ARE A PART OF AGING

If you are coming in to your 40s, you may be noticing that your eyesight is changing. You have to strain a little to read, holding the book or newspaper farther away, or you find you need to wear bifocals. You may even notice a bit of clouding of the lens of your eyes. What is going on?   Your eyes, like many other parts of the body, are showing signs of aging. The Crystalline lens in your eye is becoming less flexible. This makes it more difficult for the lens to adjust and focus when you look from far to near.

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VISION AND CLOSE WORK

It is interesting to note how eyesight has evolved. The vision system used to be more about looking far afield for what could be hunted and eaten – and what could hunt and eat us.


These days, people are spending more time with their gazes fixed on their computer or TV screens or cell phones. There are certain physical dynamics to this everyday phenomenon. There is a lens inside the eye that flexes and focuses, so when we look at things up close, that lens has to work extra hard. When you look at something in the distance, both eyes move in the same direction, but when you look at something close, your eyes’ pointing muscles have to cross to focus. To see the tiny letters on your phone, you have to be much more precise than when you’re looking at a tree. To keep both eyes turned in and pointed precisely is one of the most difficult things the eye-pointing muscles have to do. You are using the macula, which is located in the dead center of the retina. That extra precision requires extra effort from the eyes. Sometimes when you spend too much time reading or playing on your phone, you might feel headachy, sleepy or have trouble concentrating. Close work can cause eyestrain.


One way to combat possible eyestrain is to adhere to the “20-20-20” rule. When you’re working on your computer or watching videos or texting on your phone, be sure to look up every 20 minutes. Focus your eyes 20 feet away for 20 seconds to rest them. This is also a good time

to roll your shoulders and neck to relieve the strain sitting can place on them.


More and more children nowadays are already picking up the constant phone watching habit. They also spend more time playing video games. A growing number of children in the United States (about 30 percent) are presenting as nearsighted. (It’s almost 50 percent in Asia.) The increased screen time is suspected. For children, the recommendation is to follow a “5-2-1” standard. Every day, children should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. They should have no more than two hours total of screen time a day, including watching TV and playing video games. And they should spend at least one hour doing some type of physical activity, preferably outdoors. When children are just sitting there looking at a screen, they are not learning about their body and space. They need to explore, touch and feel so they can learn how to move in a three dimensional world. Children need to get feedback from the sensory system through movement, touch and visual and auditory stimulation. This is critical for the development of spatial awareness. It’s up to parents to help children wean themselves from their electronic addictions. One way to do that is to be mindful of your own use of your phone, laptop, iPad and other devices and lay them aside once in a while to play outside with your kids.


DR. RICK GRAEBE

Dr. Graebe received both his B.S degree in Visual Science and Doctorate of Optometry from Indiana University. He is a Behavioral Optometrist and learning expert. He has been in private practice here in the Bluegrass area for the past 32 years.

more articles by dr rick graebe