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Don't Take Your Eye Health for Granted.

Published: 30/06/2020

Author: Tony Colangelo

Some time ago, PFRE published a survey asking everyone in our community to offer suggestions on the types of topics they’d most like to see covered in future posts. One of the topics that I was pleasantly surprised to see was a desire to read articles related to improving one’s health as we get on in years. Real estate photography can be a very demanding profession physically and mentally, particularly if someone is shooting several houses a day. This is certainly true for those of us who might be dealing with underlying health issues. 

So, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about a health-related topic that I’d guess many of us--regardless of age--don’t think about too often: Eye health. In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on computers, tablets, and cellphones, in which hour after hour is spent focused on a computer screen of some sort, it’s important that we become increasingly sensitive to the damage that this can have on our eyes. All people, young and old, are susceptible to the negative impacts of too much screen time. In fact, such eye problems fall into a relatively new medical condition called computer vision syndrome (CVS). This is also something that the younger shooters in our community should be mindful of when it comes to their own children, especially during these trying times of lockdown.

What Is CVS and How Does It Occur?

CVS is a type of repetitive “injury” of sorts. When in front of a computer, as so many of us are when editing images for our clients, we place significant, ongoing strain on our eyes and the muscles around them. To make things worse, as we’re spending time in front of our monitors, our eyes are facing a barrage of visual elements, such as contrast, flicker and glare. Under normal, day-to-day conditions, our eyes blink about 15-20 times per minute. Doing so allows our eyes to get lubricated with our natural tears and thus refreshed. WebMD reports that when we’re in front of a computer monitor, we blink approximately half as many times and therefore, without that frequent lubrication, our eyes get dried out. This often leads to blurred vision when working. People over 40 are increasingly impacted by this as it’s at that age that our eyes become less “flexible”. The result is that we start losing our ability to focus properly, whether it be on near objects or those at a distance. While there is no scientific evidence that prolonged bouts of time in front of a computer causes long-term damage to our eyes, I think most people can attest to the fact that it can lead to much discomfort.

What Are the Symptoms of CVS?

According to WebMD, the symptoms of CVS can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Dry, red eyes
  • Eye irritation
  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain

Treating CVS

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, there are several things you can do, including:

Cutting the glare - As much as you can, try to make sure that you control the lighting in the room in which you do your editing. If light coming through a window or door is causing glare, then obviously, it makes sense to block it somehow. The key is to try and get even light over our desk/work station.

Re-position your monitor - I was surprised to discover in my research for this article, that the optimal position for a computer monitor is below eye level and about 20-24 inches away from your face.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule - Set a timer to go off every 20 minutes, at which time, it’s wise to stare at something about 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. As you’re doing so, it’s suggested that you try to blink often, so as to lubricate your eyes.

If You’re Shopping for a New Monitor

On a personal note, I recently started to do some research on purchasing a new monitor, as I’ve been struggling with my own eye health over the past little while. I’ve been encouraged to find that there are manufacturers that are creating monitors specifically for people who have eye care issues. It would seem that what these monitors have in common is an attempt to better manage screen flicker and blue light, among other things. 

After many hours of research, I’ve found that regardless of the reviewer, three companies stand out in regard to producing monitors with a specific focus on eye care. These are: BenQ, Asus, and ViewSonic. I share this information not as an endorsement of any kind but instead, as a personal observation after spending a good chunk of time reviewing what’s out there. I certainly have much more research to do before I make my purchase.

If you have suggestions to share regarding eye care issues and what you’re doing about it, I’m sure that many within our community would be interested in hearing about it. Thanks! 

Tony Colangelo