Simple Tips for Computer Eye Strain Relief

I was shocked to recently learn that nearly 85 percent of jobs now require computer use, and anywhere from 50-90 percent of those working on the computer reportedly suffer from visual symptoms.  This inspired me to share a few of my favorite tips for effectively reducing eye strain while on the computer.

  • Get a comprehensive vision exam

It shouldn’t be surprising that my first recommendation is to get a comprehensive vision exam. It is now recommended for computer users to receive an eye exam every year. The two things I ask my patients when they come in for an eye exam is how many hours they spend on the computer each day and their distance from the computer screen. Some people require a specific prescription for the computer distance and all glasses wearers can benefit from an anti-reflective coating, which decreases glare and eye strain.

  • Practice good visual hygiene

I advise my patients to practice the rule of 20-20-20, which means for every 20 minutes on the computer take a 20 second break and look at a target approximately 20 feet in the distance. Our eyes tend to lock into focus at a close working distance, so the break will force the focusing system to relax.  Additionally, when we are concentrating on near tasks our blink rate goes down, so consciously attempt to increase your blink rate during the break, which will help reduce the risk of dry eye.

  • Look for proper lighting

Try to avoid excessive light from outdoor sunlight with the use of drapes or shades. Harsh interior lighting can also be reduced by using fewer bulbs or fluorescent tubes. If overhead lights are particularly bothersome, consider turning them off and using floor lamps that provide indirect incandescent lighting instead. Another option is to replace fluorescent tubes with bulbs designed to simulate natural sunlight, such as “full spectrum” fluorescent bulbs. Finally, position your computer screen so windows are to your sides rather than directly in front or behind you.

  • Decrease glare, whenever possible

Anti-reflective coatings on prescription eyewear can dramatically decrease glare and eye strain. To put this in practice, try installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor, wearing dark-colored clothing and painting walls with muted colors and matte finishes. If you are considering a new computer screen, I recommend one that has a diagonal measurement of at least 19 inches. Consider switching from a cathode rate tube (CRT) monitor to a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD), which will reduce the image flicker, further decreasing eye strain and fatigue. Also, the higher the resolution (or lower the dot pitch) the better.

  • Change your computer settings

It is much easier to read when the text is at a comfortable size on your screen. Optimal font size will vary from person to person, so explore different option to find one that keeps you from having to squint to see it.  It is also much easier to read when there is increased contrast – for example, a white background with black print. The brightness of the display should be approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding work station; if your screen is a light source it is too bright, and if it seems dull and gray it may be too dark. To adjust Microsoft Windows operating systems, use the control panel, and in some cases adjustments can be made on the actual display. For an Apple computer, you will find the settings in Systems Preferences in the Applications folder in finder.

 

Any of these simple adjustments can help keep your eyes feeling fresh, so try one or two at a time to find a combination that offers maximum relief. And if you have any questions feel free to call or stop by the office; I would be happy to address your specific concerns or offer additional advice on how to maintain a regimen for keeping eye strain to a minimum.

 

 

 

Q&A: Getting to know Dr. Phillips

Get to know the faces behind West Hills Vision Care! First up is Dr. Katie Phillips, WHV’s resident eye expert. Read on to find out why she went into optometry, what she thinks are the keys to caring for your vision, plus how she likes to spend her time outside of the office.

Q: What made you decide to become an eye doctor?

 KP: For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to do something in the medical profession. I come from a family of primary care physicians, and when it came time to start thinking about medical school I happened to run into our family optometrist. He couldn’t say enough wonderful things about his profession and how much he loved his job. He invited me to spend some time with him seeing patients, and I fell in love with optometry. The rest is history!

 Q: Are there any areas in which you’re particularly excited about?

KP: My degree is in the area of nutrition, so I find myself fascinated with its impact on eyes and our overall health. I also love the variety and challenges that come with being a primary care optometrist.

Q: How is eye health connected to overall health?

KP: Vascular diseases – diabetes and hypertension, for example – often affect the eyes prior to the patient noticing other symptoms. There are also a number of autoimmune diseases that manifest in the ocular tissue, plus there is a correlation between general health and glaucoma, a disease process that causes damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain. So, as you can see, eye health is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining overall health.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the biggest misconception about eye health?

KP: Many people believe that if they have good vision there is no reason to see the eye doctor. But there are many disease processes that manifest in the eye that may or may not have symptoms. The American Optometric Association advises a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years.

Q: What are the main ways eye doctors can help patients improve their quality of life?

KP: Optometry is a very rewarding profession because we have the ability to improve vision with glasses, contact lenses and refractive surgery. It’s so satisfying helping people to see well!

 Q: What can patients do to protect and preserve good eyesight?

KP: The first step is to visit an eye care professional at least every two years. Early detection is a key component in maintaining your vision. Also, healthy eating and regular exercise helps to improve vascularity and, in turn, preserving the integrity of the macula, optic nerve and the overall health of the eye.

 Q: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?

KP: I spend as much time as possible with my family. We especially love to visit the children’s museum and the zoo together. I also love the outdoors, and I am really excited to get my son on skis this year!

 Q: If you weren’t a doctor, what would be your dream alternate career?

KP: I thought a lot about teaching chemistry and nutrition to high-school students and coaching soccer and/or ski team, but I truly love what I do, so I can’t see myself in any other field.

 Q: What would your patients be surprised to learn about you?

KP: I was born and raised in the Carson/Reno area, and my favorite vacation destination is Lake Tahoe.

 Q: Do you have any personal heroes? Who?

KP: My parents inspire me with their love for each other and their family, plus their work ethic in both of their careers has inspired me throughout my life.

 Q: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? What?

KP: I am trying my hardest to give up soda pop!

Flexible Spending Accounts – Use It or Lose It!!

November is the open enrollment season for “Flexible Spending Accounts” (FSA) and in light of this, I thought I would provide a few tips on how to best use your FSA.  Plus, I would like to encourage everyone fortunate enough to have one as part of their employee benefits to use it before you lose it this year!

A little bit about FSAs: Did you know that people who fall into a higher tax bracket and have higher health care costs are able to yield the highest savings? At this time, the maximum amount allotted for an FSA is between $3,000 and $5,000.  This amount is determined by the state in which you live and your employer.  In 2013, however, the maximum allotted will be reduced to $2,500.

Here’s a great example of how this could break down for you as a possible tax savings:

$50,000 Gross annual income

$4,400 Money towards FSA

$45,600 Taxable income

$1,437 Total tax savings (33%)

So exactly how much to put into your account requires a little forethought in order to maximize your savings – and remember – the biggest catch with an FSA is that if you don’t use up the money before the end of the year the money is lost. There are several tools to help you decide how much money to set aside.  For instance, there are FSA calculators such as this one from WageWorks: https://www.wageworks.com/employee/health-care/calculators/fsa.aspx .

Another tip for planning is to reflect on your previous year’s health expenses, but remember to think of additional costs you’d like to add in the new year, such as LASIK.  Also, visit your dentist, optometrist, and doctor prior to the date of enrollment to project upcoming procedures that may be needed in the next 12 months.

Finally, when it came to allowed expenses for FSAs, it became trickier to use your FSA this year, particularly because over-the-counter medications started requiring a doctor’s prescription for everything except insulin.  However, your FSA can still be used for common health care costs, including vision coverage, which means vision exams and eye glasses (even sunglasses!), contact lenses, solutions, cleaners and cases, laser eye surgery and vision co-pays, co-insurace and deductibles are covered .  For a complete list of items covered from A-Z, check out this resource from FSAFEDS (https://www.fsafeds.com/fsafeds/eligibleexpneses.asp).

And if you’re looking to squeeze in that last eye exam into 2011’s FSA, or even if you’d like to stop in and inquire about projected costs for vision care to help plan for 2012, schedule your appointment today.  We look forward to seeing you and answering any questions you may have!

Katie Phillips, OD

A few tips for safer night driving

I love the fall. The changing leaves are beautiful, and while the air is crisp and cold it is usually dry, allowing me to continue taking my kids to the park or play in the yard. Plus, it means the holiday season is nearing; Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, so I look forward to it around this time every year.

But fall also brings along shorter days and, unfortunately, more night driving. When driving in the dark, there is an increased risk of glare and halos. Add in an occasional rainstorm, and you have a recipe for some potentially dangerous conditions. I get a little more anxious when I drive this time of year, as statistics show that road deaths are three times greater during the night hours. This is a result of decreased visibility, which reduces depth perception and color recognition. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help lower the risk of night-time accidents:

1. Assure you have the best vision possible. Make sure your prescription is up-to-date. If you don’t wear glasses, but feel like your vision could be sharper, get in for an eye exam.

2. Avoid any kind of glare while driving at night. Anti-reflective lens coatings significantly help to better filter the light reaching your eyes, reducing glare and halos. This also will help prevent eye strain.

3.   Make sure the exterior lights of your car are working properly, and clean them once a week making your care more visible to others.

4. Regularly check your windshield and mirrors to make sure they’re clean, allowing for greater visibility and less glare.

5. If you’re driving for a long period of time at night, take breaks and relax your eyes. Bonus: Refreshment breaks can improve your alertness.

6. Drive at the posted speed, unless weather conditions require you to slow down. Also plan on increasing your following distance accordingly to give yourself ample time to stop if needed.

7. Follow these guidelines as soon as the sun sets, as twilight can be the most challenging time to drive because the eyes are trying to adapt to the onset of darkness.

We will be offering 50% off our anti-reflective coatings in November and December. Please come in and see us soon! And don’t forget about your flexible spending accounts (FSA) – don’t let those hard-earned dollars go to waste.

Hope to see you soon,

Katie Phillips, OD

Vision Expo West in Las Vegas

After nearly missing our plane (seven seconds to spare) on Thursday evening, Sophie and I headed south to Vision Expo West, which is touted as “the most comprehensive international ophthalmic event in the U.S.,” in Las Vegas.

Our busy schedule began bright and early Friday morning with exceptional continuing education courses.  I learned about cutting-edge medical approaches and medication available to treat a multitude of infective and chronic conditions that can affect the eyes.  I was also very excited to see the new products to help chronic dry eye, such as Tranquileyes, which we will be bringing into our office for your convenience in the very near future.

Additionally, there continue to be remarkable advancements in the treatment of macular degeneration and other retinal-vascular disease that before Anti-VEGF treatment there was little we could do to stop vision loss.  But now, thanks to these new techniques and technologies, we are actually seeing some gain in visual acuity.  And Sophie was able to expand her already exceptional skills and knowledge to better serve you when it comes to selecting the most flattering frames and ideal lenses for your new glasses.

On Saturday we were able to see the latest technology in eye care and the hottest new frames and lens materials.  It’s very exciting to get a peek at what’s available on the horizon, and the great news is that we will soon be receiving our new inventory, so please come in and check it out.  We look forward to seeing you!

Katie Phillips, OD