By: Mary Maloney
Painful, irritated eyes make life on the job miserable, but you don’t have to suffer anymore. Whether you work construction, drive a forklift or stare at a computer screen all day – taking simple, proactive steps to prevent eye injuries and discomfort can be life changing.
Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Plano eye doctor, Sadaf Razi, regularly treats patients with work-related eye discomfort and injuries. She recommends the following six simple steps to keep eyes healthy and comfortable in the workplace.
“If you’re someone who goes to the pharmacy and chooses a pair of readers simply because the number sounds right or because you think you can see well while wearing them, you may be doing yourself more harm than good.”
Tip No. 1: Prevent – don’t chase – symptoms related to digital eye strain and near work.
Common symptoms of work-related eye strain include:
- Eyes feeling tired mid-afternoon.
- General feelings of fatigue and wanting to take a nap.
- Eye redness and burning.
- Sandy, gritty sensation in the eyes.
Dr. Razi finds that, “People tend to get in the habit of working without taking frequent breaks, which fatigues the eye muscles and can cause eye strain. We see a lot of ocular surface disease, which is essentially dryness and irritation due to excessive computer work or reading without taking proper breaks.”
She also finds many people anticipate when discomfort will set in. “It’s important to get in the rhythm of taking short breaks and using artificial tears before symptoms of digital eye strain arise. These simple changes can work wonders,” Dr. Razi says.
Tip No. 2: Only wear a prescription that is accurate for your visual demands.
If you’re someone who goes to the pharmacy and chooses a pair of readers simply because the number sounds right or because you think you can see well while wearing them, you may be doing yourself more harm than good.
Improper eyeglass prescriptions can actually exacerbate eye strain, which can lead to headaches and a slew of other problems. According to Dr. Razi, wearing a proper prescription – whether it’s for computer work or reading fine print – is essential.
As she explains, “A lot of people do need a prescription for their computer work – or computer glasses. During an eye exam, we consider whether the patient has any active eye diseases or conditions and what kind of computer or other work he or she will be doing, then we calculate a prescription that fits that patient’s visual demands.”
Tip No. 3: Take steps to prevent damage and discomfort from allergens and the sun.
People who work in the great outdoors – construction, lawn care, pest control, fishing guide, golf pro, etc. – are at increased risk for eye damage and discomfort due to harmful UV rays and exposure to allergens and pollutants.
Dr. Razi often hears patients who work outdoors complain of eye irritation, including itching, redness, watery eyes, and a sandy, gritty, foreign body sensation in the eyes.
“Ultraviolet rays and pollutants can cause eye discomfort. So it’s very important for people to always protect their eyes (even when it’s cloudy) by wearing sunglasses with UV protection and brimmed hats. I also recommend taking regular breaks and using lubricating eye drops to flush out debris and minimize eye irritation,” says Dr. Razi.
Tip No. 4: Wear protective eyewear to block projectiles and debris.
If you work outdoors or in a lab or manufacturing environment where projectiles (rocks, sticks, glass, metal, etc.) could potentially fly your way or chemical splashes may occur, protective eyewear is a must.
As Dr. Razi explains, “You don’t want to risk losing an eye or compromising your vision, simply because you didn’t wear protective eyewear or assume, ‘It won’t happen to me.’ Depending on your work environment, wraparound sunglasses or goggles should be worn whenever your eyes are in harm’s way.”
Tip No. 5: Stay hydrated and keep eyes lubricated.
“Staying hydrated is very important for overall health, but it also helps balance the hydration level on the surface of the eye. So it’s important to keep lubricants like preservative-free artificial tears handy to flush out irritants or to use preemptively to avoid or reduce symptoms of computer related eye strain. Again, it’s vital to stay ahead of symptoms. So if you typically experience symptoms two to three times a day, use eye drops preventively more often than that,” Dr. Razi says.
Tip No. 6: Visit the eye doctor annually and as soon as eye problems arise.
To best manage eye wellness in the workplace, Dr. Razi recommends seeing an eye doctor annually for an eye exam and at the first sign of eye irritation. Don’t tough it out and wait until symptoms become severe.
As she explains, “It’s important to get an annual eye exam because your eye doctor may find things hiding in background that you didn’t know were damaging your eyes. We can also recommend treatments to resolve anything chronic or recurring, like dry eye symptoms and address eye irritation and injuries that could worsen without treatment.”
About the Author: Mary Maloney is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Dallas, Texas. She specializes in writing strategic marketing content that drives revenue for clients in the legal, financial, healthcare, wellness, manufacturing, event marketing, retail and M&A spaces.
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