Eye Health for Writers

Although I was put on indefinite administrative leave for berating people into changing their ways opted for early retirement from the Wellness Police, I still like to craft the occasional post on health tips to help prolong your writing careers. I do it because you guys are important to me. Sure, it’ll help me knock down my community service hours, but that’s just a bonus.

Anyway, let’s talk about your eyes. Yes. They’re gorgeous, dahh-ling. And as long as they point straight ahead and you can find your way to the coffee pot in the morning, you probably don’t think too much about them. But eye health is vital to your writing career, for reading, writing, revising, proofreading, proofreading again, and finding your way back to the coffee pot after the first four or five cups have lost their magic. Here are a few ways to protect your precious eyeballs from the ravages of computer use and keep them looking pretty in your author photos for years to come. Even without Photoshop.

1. Blink. A funny thing happens when we plop our sit-bones in front of a monitor. Our natural blink rate slows. Blinking prompts eyes to produce lubrication. Ergo…dry eyes, and that awful burning, bleary, scratchy feeling at the end of the day like you want to claw your orbs out of your skull. Over time, this can increase your chances of infection because tears help wash away foreign particles that could lodge in pores and really give you a pain in the…eye. (I should know. I’ve had surgery twice to excise stubborn styes.) Lack of eye moisture could lead to a stubborn, annoying condition called, creatively, “dry eye.” Science isn’t sure if it’s related to our sudden dependence on monitor-staring (whether that’s a blink-rate reduction or any kind of radiation a monitor may produce) or a condition of aging. Try to remember to blink more frequently when you’re at the computer. Write it on a sticky note if you have to. Until you get into the habit (or just if it feels good), comfort yourself with a few doses of soothing eye drops (the “artificial tears” varieties) throughout the day.

2. Take breaks. I know. I harp on this all the time. You get on a good writing roll, and seven hours later…well, all kinds of awful things happen in your body from sitting still that long. It also ticks off your eyes. At least look away from your screen every forty minutes or so. This will give your eye muscles a little exercise as they change focal lengths from close vision to far.

3. Adjust your monitor. While you’re making your workspace body-friendly, don’t forget your monitor. Right now (unless you’re reading this on one of those phone-type devices), extend your arm straight ahead. Your fingertips should just touch your monitor. If you look straight ahead with your head at a comfy angle (imagine a string pulling upward from the top of your skull), you should see the middle of the screen, about three-quarters of the way up from the bottom. This gives your eyes maximum roaming range while minimizing strain.

4. Drink enough water. From your spinal disks to your eyeballs, you are made mostly of water. Get some regularly.

5. Good nutrition. Mama was right. So were Popeye and Bugs Bunny. Eat your veggies, especially the colorful ones. For example, the chemicals that give beets their bright color are powerful antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin) linked to eye health, and especially a possible reduction on the development of age-related optical conditions like macular degeneration.

6. Use protection. Well, that kind, but also get a decent pair of sunglasses. Check the labels if you buy them from the discount rack. If they have an “ANSI Z80.3” sticker, you’re good to go. As long as you have that stamp of approval, $20 shades could be as good for your eyes as the pricier models.

7. Consider a supplement. Some ophthalmologists recommend borage oil for dry eye. There’s a complicated explanation about omega-3 fatty acids and ALAs and such that I won’t bore you with here, but see if it helps you. (Standard health police disclaimer: Check with your doctor before trying a new supplement, especially if you take prescription medication.)

And finally, if you can swing it, try to get an eye exam every couple of years, especially if you have a family history of eye problems or diabetes. Better to catch small problems while they’re still easily managed, to protect your lovely eyes for years to come.

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

13 thoughts on “Eye Health for Writers”

  1. I did #3 and since I use a laptop 100% of the time, I adjusted it the best I could. Hubby is always grumbling I don’t do enough of #4. Gatoraid must account for something, right?

    Does that borage oil really work? I had Lasik and tend to get dry eye. Drops do little to help.

    Great post, thanks!

    1. I use a laptop as my main computer at home, with a full-sized keyboard attached. So the laptop is propped up on an old industrial supplies directory to get it at the right height for my eyes. Necessity is the mother of Frank Zappa, or something like that….

  2. Hmm…I think my arms are too short. That’s it, right? 😉

    Every year, I complain to my optometrist that I can’t read as long as I used to, and every year she reminds me about her 30-30 rule: Every 30 minutes, look away from your close work and focus on something far away for 30 seconds. And I say, “Oh yeah.” And then I forget to do it.

  3. Kathy, borage oil worked for me. So do warm compresses and keeping the lash line clean. One of my colleagues uses a humidifier in her office.

  4. Well, damn, this is way too sensible, Laurie!

    My (imaginary?) ADD works well—I literally can’t stay focused on anything for long enough to strain my eyes… of course, I also can’t ever get anything written, either.

  5. I just realised something. My desk and monitor sit to the left of my window so without even thinking about it I tend to glance outside to see if anything ‘s changed. I used to think my window was a distraction but now I’m thinking it’s a health aid! Nice post 😀

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