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How do I prevent my eyes from getting worse?
March 17, 2010 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I fear I'm slowly but surely becoming Mr. Magoo. Is there anything I can do to preserve my eyesight?

I have been nearsighted for most of my life. I got my first pair of glasses in fifth grade. My eyes became progressively worse through high school. And then, as expected, the progression stabilized when I hit my early twenties. I kind of expected that my eyesight would remain stable for at least a couple decades or so.

However, since I started on my second degree my eyes have gone downhill once more. And now that I'm working, I'm chained to desk between 8 and 12 hours a day, squinting at a computer monitor. If my eyes keep getting worse at this rate, I will not be able to see diddlysquat by the time I'm 40. I'd like to get laser treatment eventually, but it'll be a waste if my eyes keep getting worse.

My optometrist once told me that a weaker prescription is better for nearsighted work, such as reading, so I ordered my contact lenses slightly under-strength (I don't drive). Currently I'm wearing 6.5 in one eye and 5.25 in the other.

What else can I do? Am I causing my increasing nearsightedness, or is it genetic and beyond my control? Is it possible to exercise eyes?
posted by keep it under cover to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Aldous Huxley wrote a book called The Art of Seeing which is about he Bates method of strengthening the eyes. It worked for him . I don't know anything about it really so I can't say, but might be worth reading about some of the exercises. And I;m sure there are more recent eye exercise books out there.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:35 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure it's beyond your control, but if it makes you feel better, at some point they usually stop getting worse and may even get better. I am in my mid-30s (and wear a 6.5 in both eyes) and my eyes seemed to have stopped getting worse in the last few years.
posted by amro at 1:53 PM on March 17, 2010


Eventually you'll hit presbyopia, and then you'll probably get bifocals. Happens to lots of people.

I'm not your ophthalmologist, I'm just a girl who earned her first set of bifocals at age 33. (-10.25 and -4.25! WOOOO)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:05 PM on March 17, 2010


It depends on the way that your eyesight is degenerating. Although explicitly illegal, some older people get prescriptions for human growth hormone - one of the benefits is increased muscle tone, which extends to the tone of the muscles that controls the eyes - resulting in not needing reading glasses anymore.

Since you stare at a computer all day, do you keep your eyes lubricated? Don't use visine, rather go for something like Alcon Tears Naturale II (it's like visine but not bad for you) or (I can't remember the brand) Refresh Tears (it's more viscous and lasts a long time but can get gummy for me).
posted by porpoise at 2:08 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


If it helps you, my eyesight is a LOT worse than yours and I share your concerns (negative eights in both eyes). I've been eating more carrots and resting my eyes when I'm at home., and looking away from the computer every few minutes.
posted by anniecat at 2:21 PM on March 17, 2010


To add to porpoise's comment, use Refresh Tears just before going to sleep too. This is something that everyone should to as your eyes tend to dry quite a bit over night.
posted by elroyel1327 at 2:57 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you don't have an ophthalmologist, i.e., a doctor, find one and use them. You want to determine if there is a medical reason for your deteriorating vision.

Most likely, though, it's just a factor of age.

And, as I understand it, staring at a computer monitor all day can give you a headache, but it will not cause actual harm to your eyes. Taking breaks and looking at distant objects helps the muscles that surround your eyes, but not what's inside your eyeball. The basic reason our vision changes as we age is that the shape of our eyes changes, or so my ophthalmologist tells me.
posted by justcorbly at 3:01 PM on March 17, 2010


I have terrible eyesight (-8.00 in each eye); I was prescribed glasses at age 8 and my sight has gone downhill every year or so since then. In fact, my eye doctor was sort of alarmed that the deterioration didn't stop when I hit my late 20s. However, a couple of years ago, in my early 30s, my eyesight improved slightly but noticeably when I stopped wearing contact lenses and switched to glasses. A trip to the eye doctor confirmed it. I was very excited and asked him what could have caused it; he said it could possibly be attributed to my switch to glasses but didn't elaborate. Maybe it has something to do with the dryness that contacts can cause.

So, you could try switching from contacts to glasses. I did it after nearly 20 years of contact use, and I found it surprisingly easy. It helped to get frames that I loved, and to pay through the nose for the thinnest lenses available.

However, my eye doctor also predicted that soon I would need bifocals. I am in my mid-30s, so you'll have some company soon, fairytale of los angeles. Sigh.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:16 PM on March 17, 2010


If you feel your vision is changing, it is vital to have annual vision examinations. Problems like macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts need to be evaluated and treated appropriately to save your sight. Many people doing computer work find that a combination of contact lenses and low correction reading glasses work best, for long sessions of screen related work. Also, managing glare and lighting interference becomes more important the longer you sit staring into a computer screen, particularly if your office has no source of natural light, and is largely lit by florescent lighting. The rapid 60Hz and 120Hz pulsation of florescent lights, playing against your computer screen's internal light source (if LCD) or refresh rate (if CRT) can play havoc with your eyes over long periods of time.
posted by paulsc at 4:33 PM on March 17, 2010


A friend is wildly enthusiastic about the results he's getting from this site's program:

http://www.withoutglasses.com/
posted by darth_tedious at 4:57 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


squinting at a computer monitor.

This has absolutely nothing to do with your eyesight.

Visine or other lubrication also will have absolutely nothing to do with it: the focal length of your eye depends on the shape and curvature of the cornea, not on whether your eyes dry out at night.

Age-related presbyopia is caused in part by a weakening of the eye muscles, so they can no longer flex the cornea as effectively -- so there's at least a theoretical basis for expecting that exercises might help with presbyopia (though as far as I know this has yet to be confirmed by any reputable clinical trials.) In any case this isn't relevant to you, because you have the opposite of presbyopia. For myopia,
The American Academy of Ophthalmology task force on complementary therapy performed an assessment of the effectiveness on eye exercises and visual training in reducing myopia. Their conclusions were: There is level I evidence that visual training for control of accommodation has no effect on myopia. In other studies (level II/III evidence), an improvement in subjective visual acuity for patients with myopia who have undertaken visual training has been shown but no corresponding physiological cause for the improvement has been demonstrated. The improvements in myopic patients noted in these studies have been postulated to be due to improvements in interpreting blurred images, changes in mood or motivation, creation of an artificial contact lens by tear film changes, or a pinhole effect from miosis of the pupil.

No evidence was found that visual training has any effect on the progression of myopia. No evidence was found that visual training improves visual function for patients with hyperopia or astigmatism. No evidence was found that visual training improves vision lost through disease processes such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. source
(Note the 'withoutglasses.com' site darth_tedious links to claims to help with presbyopia, not myopia. It's also worth noting that their little test to see if their miracle method can work for you!! would work for literally anyone who has two functioning eyeballs. Color me a teeny tiny bit skeptical.)

Anyway. Congratulations, you're a victim of genetics.

I'd like to get laser treatment eventually, but it'll be a waste if my eyes keep getting worse.

Your eyes may or may not continue to get worse, but even if you get LASIK and they do continue to deteriorate, they'd be starting from 0 instead of from -6. Not such a bad deal.
posted by ook at 6:19 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm in my very late 20's (34), and I've noticed in the past couple of years that after doing up close work, my eyes take a little bit of time to readjust to distance vision. I find that it is worst the closer I work at something, and the poorer the quality of the light is. (Not the brightness, but the spectrum balance.)

(I also find that something horrible happens when I am in a store (like Home Depot or Costco) that is lit by those kinds of lights. It just gets harder to focus on stuff. I have no idea why.)

And my vision has been an order of magnitude better ever since I switched to contact lenses with UV blocking. Whatever the mechanism is, UV light creates a blur in my eyes. So on a nice sunny say, things had odd halos around them. New contacts, same brand, same strength, cured it instantly. Blue LEDs are also hard to focus on. My new alarm clock was comically invisible at night because it had beautiful, cool looking large blue letters. At night, just a blur.

So, to get to my point, see if the lighting in your office can somehow be improved. There are a couple of full spectrum daylight brands of fluorescent lights that I find are very comfortable to work under. And don't squint at the monitor. Put it wherever you need it to be to avoid eyestrain. It can't hurt to make it a point to look up every few minutes and focus on something far away- out the window if possible.
posted by gjc at 6:54 PM on March 17, 2010


Also, according to someone somewhere that I can't remember or cite, some people are just more comfortable with weaker or stronger corrections for their eyesight. My experience is that people wearing glasses tend to like to have an up close pair. Probably something to do with the size of the lens in comparison to the field of vision. Maybe your eyes actually prefer a dead-on or stronger prescription?

Another thing I forgot: too much caffeine can make your eyes seem blurrier.
posted by gjc at 7:00 PM on March 17, 2010


Are you currently under the care of an ophthalmologist or just an optometrist? It might be worth a visit if you're concerned.
posted by inertia at 7:02 PM on March 18, 2010


NPR recently had a story on nearsightedness, and as someone who really suffers from it, I found it rather interesting as I listened to it... while at work staring at a computer monitor.

This particular study noted that instead of "near-work" being the culprit (reading, computer work), it might be natural vs artificial light. Kids who spent more time outdoors growing up tended to have better vision later on. Overall physical activity whether in or out didn't seem to be a factor.

I recalled reading somewhere, probably proponents of the See Clearly Method, that cultures who don't read or write have a negligible rate of myopia (their main point being that genetics weren't to blame). I kept this in mind during the NPR story, and by the time they got around to the indoors/outdoors thing, the two seemed to dovetail.

So the solution for us types might be to start living in trees. Then again, they tell us sunlight is bad for your eyes too, so... ahhh, what's the point?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:49 PM on March 18, 2010


So this question is pretty old, but that NPR story TheSecretDecoderRing references gave me an idea. I would guess (with no evidence to back this up) that cultures that read and write frequently and do more indoor activities have higher rates of myopia because the eyes in those cultures do more focusing on things that are close relative to non-literative, outdoor-based cultures, which influences the development of the eye such that less importance is placed on seeing things that are far away.

The plant grows towards the light!
posted by 3FLryan at 6:36 PM on May 11, 2010


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