How do you protect your eyes when using computers for many hours?
April 21, 2004 10:53 AM   Subscribe

How do you protect your eyes when standing long hours in front of a computer screen? [more inside]

Lately, I've been spending dozens of hours in front of my monitor (a 19'' Samsung CRT). If it's worth anything, I don't wear glasses for myopia, etc. - my eyesight, thankfully, is pretty good so far.

I'm a bit worried for my eyes, and for my well-being in general; I remember once, meeting a pal who inherited a permanent nervous tic; he would close his eyes every 4-5 seconds with a very intense face movement (cheeks going upwards, forehead wrinkling - my English is rather poor so I can't describe it accurately, but I can tell you it wasn't a pleasant thing to watch, and I felt sorry for him).

I don't want to sound like one of these "using computers is extremely bad for your health! run for your lives!" guys, but if any PC users should be worried the most, it's us who use them many hours daily (and I think many MeFites belong to this group).

So, what do you do to protect yourself? Wearing some kind of special glasses? Taking breaks at regular intervals (if so, what's your time schedule)?

Thanks for your tips!
posted by kchristidis to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
i've been staring at monitors for years, most of my waking time. no damage. no special tricks.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:06 AM on April 21, 2004

I get dry eyes when i stare at a monitor for more than a couple hours a day (which for me is all the time). remembering to blink helps, and using moisturizing eye drops every few hours
more uncomfortable than unhealthy though...
posted by darsh at 11:10 AM on April 21, 2004

I invested in a large LCD monitor. I was able to score it for $800 total, which I figured wasn't a bad investment. 20" is likely to be big enough for me for many years to come.

The LCD never burns my eyes out like CRTs always did. After enough hours at a CRT, you can feel it projecting rays into the backs of your eyeballs like a microwave oven. I used to put my sunglasses on and use glare filters just to keep it under control. The LCD is more like looking at a piece of paper in good light. You can see it just fine, but you don't get the feeling that it's being *projected into* your eyes.

I also keep a small halogen spotlight mounted on my desk. It's on a flexible arm which allows me to aim it. I use it to project a halo of light onto the wall behind the monitor. Even in the daylight hours, when there's ambient light, this keeps my eyes from over-adjusting to the screen itself, and keeps them from getting tired out. I guess in fewer words, you want to make sure the monitor isn't the only bright thing in your field of vision.
posted by scarabic at 11:15 AM on April 21, 2004

Oh, and incidentally, if you're using a large monitor and high resolution, you're likely to get really small text everywhere you look. I have bumped up all the text sizes in my browser and operating system appearance settings. This reduces the urge to lean in closer to the monitor. If you have to look at something for hours, you don't want it to be right up close to your face. It's not good for your eyes to focus very close to your head for long stretches. You should try to configure your computer so that you're able to sit back in your chair and see what you need to without leaning forward or squinting. It will also help if you look away every ten minutes or so, focus your eyes on the far wall for a 30 second rest. I have a window to one side I can look out of, which accomplishes the same thing in a nice way. Abentmindedly gazing out the window periodically may not be great for productivity but it is good for your eyes.
posted by scarabic at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2004

Here are my general purpose tips for anyone spending hours and hours in front of a display:

1. Get a really great CRT monitor -- not an LCD, most of which use a 60 Hz fluorescent backlight -- and set it to the highest refresh rate it can handle. Depending on the work you do, it may be worth it to use a lower than maximal resolution in order to achieve a higher refresh rate.

2. Look away once in a while. Get in the habit of turning away when pausing to think.


4. Control your lighting -- place the monitor to reduce reflected glare from lights and windows, and don't face toward an unshaded window with daylight blasting at you. If possible, use more natural or incandescent light than fluorescent.

5. Complete darkness is not your friend.
posted by majick at 11:22 AM on April 21, 2004

I suffer from low-grade eyestrain as a result of too much monitor time. My optometrist recommended keeping eyedrops nearby and using them often. She mentioned (as others have suggested above) that we tend to "forget" to blink during long sessions with a CRT, so we often have to compensate with drops (and frequent breaks).

Also, if you're a coffee drinker, consider cutting back, especially if you tend to get "coffee jitters." Caffiene-induced dehydration and tremors are no good for your eyes and the tiny muscles that support and control their movement.
posted by scottandrew at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2004

I use big fonts and big resolution and I don't understand those who use the tiny ones. I also make sure my monitor isn't too high because it gives me headaches to be looking upwards all day. Haven't had a problem beyond somewhat dry eyes. Nobody's complained about a tic, but I do blink often and sometimes hard when I am tired (away from the computer as well.)
posted by callmejay at 12:50 PM on April 21, 2004

One word - BLINK!

I suffer from "dry eye" and my optometrist told me that it is common with people who concentrate on anything in a fixed position for long periods, whether that is a monitor or anything else, because they tend not to blink enough to properly lubricate their eyes. This results in a build up of mucus on the eyes, which is the cause of the sand-in-the-eyes feeling. I have to make a conscious effort to blink more and use eye-lubricating drops.
posted by dg at 3:17 PM on April 21, 2004

Here is a test to see if your monitors refresh rate is too low:

Have a moderate amount of light around you. Make sure your monitors brightness and contrast is normal, but bright.

Look above, or to the sides of the monitor. You are not trying to look directly at the screen, your looking directly at something next to it or behind it. (You wall)

Does the screen flicker when you dont look directly at it? Chances are your refresh rate is below 75Hz. Refresh rate is the amount of times your monitor refreshes its image every second. If it goes too slow, you can develop headaches and eye issues.

The way to turn your refresh rate up: Windows XP right click on your desktop, click properties. Go to the settings tab, then click advanced. Click the monitor tab. Change this number to either 75hz or 85hz (or higher but go slowly at first, some monitors can be damaged going to high but dont sweat it).

This is highly beneficial to your eyes, have fun. Also, GO OUTSIDE OR GET UP AND DO SOMETHING FOR 15 MINUTES also helps.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:08 AM on April 22, 2004

Thanks everyone for your contribution!

Some very helpful tips in here, I'll try to keep them in mind!
posted by kchristidis at 11:32 PM on April 22, 2004

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