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Protecting your eyes at work

By Flavia Nassaka

Contact lens wearers suffer more discomfort using computers

A phone, a television set, or a computer are a must have in today’s modern society. Due to their multi- functional features, especially at the work place staring at a computer monitor for long hours has become part of a typical workday. Inevitably, all that day long and at times night staring can put a real strain on one’s eyes.

Dr. Dralega Anguyo, an optometrist says eye problems (eye strain and pain) caused by computer use are referred to as computer vision syndrome.

Studies show that eye strain and other bothersome visual symptoms occur in 50 to 90 percent of computer workers.

He says just like other repetitive stress injuries, computer vision syndrome is a result of carrying out the same motion over and over again (staring at the computer for long) whereby with continued activity, the eye conditions can get worse.

The doctor explains that as one continuously focuses- moving back and forth especially when one has to look into the note book and then type, the eye muscles use a lot of effort and they are eventually strained leading to pain, headache, blurred vision or double vision.  “It’s more challenging to the eyes working on a computer than reading a book because a computer screen also adds the elements of screen contrast and flicker,” he adds. Though computer vision syndrome can occur to any user, it can be severe with a person who has had eye disorders like long sightedness, shortsightedness, astigmatism or those who wear wrong glass prescription for computer use.

“Working at a computer gets even more difficult as you get older where one develops a condition known as presbyopia. This condition is caused by the fact that with old age, the eye lens become less flexible leading to decreasing ability to focus on near or far objects,” says Dr. Grace Nsibirwa, an eye surgeon.   Both doctors agree that the computer cannot permanently damage the eyes but they will be strained and can aggravate existing eye conditions.

Dr. Nsibirwa advises that one should always ensure that the lighting and computer position are ideal to avoid straining the cornea of the eye adding adults of 40 years and above should always go for checkups at least once in two years.

Apart from exposure to dangerous computer lights, eye problems are caused by a number of other factors including old age, diabetes where high blood sugar damages the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, environmental allergies, infections like eye ulcers and cancers. According to Dr. Nsibirwa eye disorders can be treated by use of antibiotics but refractive errors are corrected by either spectacles (glasses) or contact lenses.

Like spectacles, contact lenses are medical devices worn to correct refractive error by adding or subtracting focusing power to the eye’s cornea and lens.

According to Dr. Anguyo contacts provide a safe and effective way to correct vision when used with care and proper supervision.

“They can offer a good alternative to eyeglasses, depending on your eyes and your lifestyle. For certain conditions, contact lenses may be considered medically necessary,” he says but warns that they should not be worn for long night hours as people who use contacts overnight have a greater chance of developing infections of the cornea.  Like Anguyo, Dr. Nsibirwa says they recommend contacts consciously to only those who can meet the hygiene requirements while using them since one can develop an infection or irritation once the lens get into contact with dust.

She adds that since they require touching the eyes all the time while wearing, the cornea may be damaged leading to severe conditions like cancer or ulcers and the fact that they are supposed to always be disinfected could be tasking making glasses a better option.   Because contacts reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the eye, the optometrist said that over 80% of his patients who use contact lenses at work have experienced a problem of dryness and discomfort during long hours of computer use.

While dispelling the myth that spectacles exacerbate eye problems, doctors warn patients against rushing to opticians with eye problems. These are commercial workers who may convince you to buy glasses when you can actually do without them, the experts say.

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