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Work in Focus
Computer position and light are key factors in avoiding computer vision syndrome

By CATHY BREITENBUCHER

 

Take a good look at your workstation. A poorly positioned computer screen could be causing eye and vision problems known as Computer Vision Syndrome. Symptoms include eye strain, blurred vision and dry eyes, along with fatigue, headaches, and neck and back pain. "I see patients with that complaint on a daily basis," says Dr. Marcus Neitzke, an optometrist in Waukesha who serves as the president of the Wisconsin Optometric Association.

Ideally, your computer screen should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes and 4 to 5 inches below eye level. The screen should be free of glare from windows and lighting. So, that sunny table at the coffee shop might not be the best spot for using your laptop.

Regardless of where you use a computer, you should take a one- or two-minute eye break every 20 minutes, according to Neitzke. Look away from the screen and let your eyes adjust to distance vision.

The same guidelines apply if you’re playing computer games or watching videos online, Neitzke says, meaning that ergonomics is important for kids, too.

Other tips to keep your computer vision sharp:

•Enlarge the type on your screen to make it easier to read.

•Be sure to blink frequently.

•Get non-glare coating on your eyeglasses.


Color My World
Pick the right lens for your sport

Sports represent the No. 1 cause of eye injuries in children under the age of 16, so make sure eyeglass lenses are impact-resistant; or, better yet, consider investing in sturdier sports glasses or goggles, according to Dr. Marcus Neitzke, an optometrist in Waukesha who serves as the president of the Wisconsin Optometric Association.

Experts say sunlight contributes significantly to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration — and 80 percent of UV damage to the eyes takes place before a person turns 18. "The more you can have sunglasses on from an early age, the better," says Dr. Amy Jankowski, an optometrist at Metro Eye in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.

So, be sure your sunglasses in fact offer UV protection. "Some of the cheapy sunglasses out there don’t," warns Neitzke.

Choosing the right sunglass lens can enhance your enjoyment of sports, according to Kevin Haro, eyewear buyer at Laacke & Joys, with three Milwaukee area locations. "In a high-intensity sport like running or biking, you have to be able to see what’s coming at you," he says.

Manufacturers including Smith, Oakley and Native offer frames that allow you to switch lenses when you switch sports. Haro offers these lens color suggestions for outdoor activities:

•Downhill skiing — gray polarized, to reduce glare from snow

•Cross country skiing — pink or yellow, for contrast

•Running or cycling (medium to bright sun) — dark copper or brown, to saturate colors

•Running (changing conditions) — pink

•Cycling (fall sun or lower light) — yellow, to brighten surroundings

•Golf — purple, for ease of locating the ball from a distance

•Sailing/fishing/cruise (brightest sun) — dark green polarized

•Sailing/fishing/cruise (medium sun) — brown or dark rose polarized


Mom was right: eat your vegetables

A diet rich in antioxidants and Vitamins A, C, D and E can prevent the development of cataracts (cloudy vision) and macular degeneration (loss of central vision) — among the most serious threats to an older adult’s vision. For most people, taking a daily multivitamin and eating plenty of dark green vegetables like spinach and broccoli and other healthy foods like fish, milk and blueberries is good enough.

Antioxidants, not smoking and using sunglasses are "preventative maintenance to keep the eyes healthy," according to Dr. Amy Jankowski, an optometrist at Metro Eye in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. She prescribes high-dose vitamins known as AREDS formulas for patients with a family history of macular degeneration or other risk factors.