As part of your regular health routine, be sure to include eye health and wellness, which includes booking your annual comprehensive eye exam. As we celebrate Workplace Eye Wellness Month in March, it’s the perfect time to review your eye health plan and ensure you have a healthy and safe workplace.
See an Eye Doctor
Be sure to include regular visits to an optometrist (doctors of optometry). The regular visit is not just about assessing changes to your prescription if you wear corrective lens. During a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist examines the tissues and structures inside the eye, looking for eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration, as well as tears in the retina, bleeding and tumours. Many eye diseases have no early signs or symptoms, so early detection is critical to ensure the best possible treatment.
They are also looking for early signs of serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Regular visits to eye care professionals can give you a better picture of your eye health and overall health before you begin to experience symptoms whether work related or not.
Manage Screen Time
A growing concern is computer vision syndrome or digital eyestrain. Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is like other repetitive strain injuries that you may sustain in the workplace. CVS is not exclusive to the workplace, because many of us continue to use screens at home for personal use. Digital eyestrain may be even worse at home as postures to view screens are often casual, unlikely to be ergonomic, and appropriate lighting may not be managed. CVS results from the eyes following the same pattern of movement repeatedly as you read or scan a screen. The condition worsens the more frequently you continue this pattern. When working on a computer the eyes consistently have to focus and refocus to the screen. This is highly demanding of the eye muscles leading to fatigue. Screen use puts a much bigger strain on your eyes than reading on paper because of the added contrast and glare. Digital screens also emit blue light, the long-term impacts of which are still not fully understood. Studies suggest over exposure to blue light can impact sleep pattern, appetite and mood.
You’re more likely to suffer from CVS if you already have eye health concerns, if you require glasses but don’t wear them, if you wear the wrong prescription, or if your screen isn’t kept at the appropriate distance from the eyes. If you spend a significant part of the day working at a computer ensure you consult with an ergonomist, or review the fundamentals of eye health ergonomics to minimize the potential for eyestrain.
CVS and the potential negative impacts can be managed using very simple techniques. Ensure appropriate breaks are taken to protect the eyes when working on computers, or with other screens. The 20/20/20 recommendation is a method to ensure you take enough breaks. Basically, every twenty minutes look at something at least twenty meters away from your screen for at least twenty seconds. This allows your eyes to relax and re-focus. Most computers and other devices can be programmed with reminders to facilitate the timing of adequate breaks.
Be Sure to Blink
It may sound obvious, but studies indicate that people do not blink as frequently while looking at screens. Blinking is important to keep the surface of the eyes moist and well lubricated. Not blinking leads to dry eyes and this can cause aggravation and increase CVS and other eye health concerns. Blinking is fundamental for eye health.
This issue is exacerbated in the winter. The relative humidity is often significantly lower in the winter months because indoor heating tends to dry out our indoor environments. If you suffer from dry eyes, consult with an optometrist to ensure there are no underlying issues and to find the best solution for your eyes. These appointments are covered by Alberta Health.
Staying hydrated is important to maintaining eye health and overall health.
Consider Computer Eyewear – it’s available through the Eyesafe program!
Computer eyewear used to be a major fashion faux pas, because they were made exclusively with yellow lenses and were modeled after traditional safety eyewear designs. Modern computer eyewear is now available in almost as many styles as conventional glasses, which means employees are more likely to find a pair with a comfortable fit and look fashionable, too. Your optometrist can help you find the correct computer eyewear for your vision.
If you prefer not to use computer eyewear, consider fitting your screen with a blue light filter screen. These are positioned in front of the screen and can be quite effective in minimizing blue light exposure of the eyes.
This month, take your eye health and wellness seriously. Eye health as part of your overall health can be managed by focusing on the fundamentals: sufficient rest, hydration, proper nutrition, regular eye exams and stress management. As you would with any health routine, educate yourself on the techniques that can make an impactful difference on your eye health, whether it requires protective eyewear or administrative controls. Regardless of what your occupation may be, take care of your eye health and wellness!
Glyn Jones is a partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary. He is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 30 years of experience. He is a regular safety conference speaker in Canada and he provides program design and instructional support to the University of New Brunswick’s OHS certificate and diploma programs.