Career change due to eye problems
December 21, 2007 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I have recently been advised by my eye doctor that I need to significantly reduce my computer usage (no more than 2 or 3 hours a day). My entire career has been spent in the computer field (operations, programming, general systems work). Anyone have any suggestions on how to leverage my skills and abilities into a new career field?
posted by sandpine to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by voidcontext at 7:28 AM on December 21, 2007

Teach classes in computer use and intro programming at a local high school, community college, or community groups? Not a lot of money in it, but maybe you could combine it with part-time or freelance coding gigs and not impact your income too much? Good luck. (I fear I might be heading down the same road, in terms of eyesight, one of these years.)
posted by aught at 7:33 AM on December 21, 2007

Can I bother to ask you why he gave you the advice?
posted by fusinski at 7:46 AM on December 21, 2007

Get a new doctor.
posted by curtm at 8:02 AM on December 21, 2007

It may seem obvious, but I found my computer work much easier with a LCD running at its native resolution.

CRTs are horrible on the eyes. Also, LCDs are bad if you use anything other than its native resolution.

Some large screen hi definition TVs accept VGA input, you could use one of those.

Of course, you should listen to your doctor, but rarely do they consider things like this.
posted by Wismi at 8:03 AM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some large screen hi definition TVs accept VGA input, you could use one of those.

As I sit here reading MeFi on my 32" LCD HDTV (running at 1366 x 768 native resolution) I couldn't agree more. There's no way anyone could get eye strain from this thing.

Of course, you aren't just using your own computer every day, and you certainly couldn't drag a TV into work every day. I also suggest you find a new doctor; suggesting that you drastically cut down your computer usage is kind of ridiculous in today's society. At the very least, you need to get a second opinion on this.

Anecdote: My teeth used to be pretty bad, and the dentist I had been seeing was telling me what would have to be done. I had a tooth protruding from the roof of my mouth, not far from the middle. He took one look at that and said "That'll have to come out." I went to another orthodontist before getting braces, and he said "Oh, we can definitely fix that." And sure enough, here I am two years later, with all of my teeth in the right spots.

So, just because one doctor says something doesn't necessarily mean it's true.
posted by DMan at 8:12 AM on December 21, 2007

If you are really disciplined about using pen and paper wherever possible I would think you should be able to manage most IT jobs with only 2-3 hours in front of the screen. The slight slowdown from having to enter in stuff that you've already written down would probably be more than made up for by the extra clarity of purpose you would get from having to justify any computer use to yourself.
posted by teleskiving at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2007

Another vote for second opinion.

About 20 years ago my elderly optometrist gave me the same advice. Those new-fan-dangled computer things are going to make you go blind, young lady! He made it sound very dire, and recommended a career change right away.

I went to a younger doc, who scoffed at the first diagnosis. 20 years later, I'm nowhere near blind, despite being on the computer for over 8 hours a day and no longer being such a young lady.
posted by chez shoes at 8:37 AM on December 21, 2007

I think your best course of action will depend on why you are being advised to reduce your computer usage, and also how you feel about the possibility of a career change. If the best medical advice you can get (I agree with previous posters not to change careers without a second opinion!) says that the computer work is damaging your eyesight, you may have no other choice. However, if the computer work is causing you symptoms but not permanent damage, you may have other options.

I suffer from strabismus, which gives me double vision; computer use is difficult and often results in crippling headaches due to my having to strain to read the screen. However, I have been able to get a large measure of relief by using accessibility options to make my computer easier to use.

I approached my employer about the problem, including the fact that my vision issues were worsened by using a small screen. My employer approved a new, large screen laptop (all employees at my company use laptops) for me, and I was able to move to a different project where I did most of my work on a desktop system with a larger, LCD monitor. Once I had the physically larger monitor, I was able to set the system fonts, icon sizes, etc. to a larger, easier to read size. These changes have helped quite a lot; rather than having to start popping Advil at 11am I sometimes go two or three days without serious problems.

There are also other options available for the visually impaired computer user, such as reader software and mice that have built-in magnification buttons.

Of course, if you want to change careers or career paths, this may be a golden opportunity. Your current employer may even have other positions you could transfer to. I found my employer to be very helpful in working with my issues- nobody wants to get slapped with an ADA lawsuit, after all. (I speak as neither a lawyer nor a doctor, simply as someone who might have useful insight to offer.)
posted by oblique red at 9:04 AM on December 21, 2007

Echoing everyone who said to get a second opinion. I was an optometrist's assistant for several years and the doctor I worked for never told someone to reduce their computer usage. We always tried to accomodate our patients' needs based on their career or hobby or what-have-you. If you are experiencing eye strain based on being at the computer there are a multitude of ways to remedy that without resorting to having to change jobs. There are anti-glare coatings for your lenses, there are mid-distance prescriptions (i.e. a prescription you can wear that is specifically tailored for your computer use), there are adjustments that can be made to your computer itself to reduce eyestrain, etc. etc. Unless you have a dire and unusual eye problem that you haven't revealed to us, there's no circumstance that I can think of where a doctor would give you the advice that you got.
posted by amyms at 9:35 AM on December 21, 2007

Yes, definitely, second or even third opinion! IANAD, but I don't believe there is any reason to change careers outright unless the consensus from more than one doctor is "Change careers or go blind!"

If you are not risking severe and permanent damage, then there are all kinds of accommodations you and your employers can make - a good doctor can suggest some. And if you get doctor's orders for accommodations - the Americans with Disabilities act means that your employer has to provide "reasonable accommodation" for you to do your job. Something like an anti-glare screen, larger type, voice-activated software, better lighting, don't cost much from a business standpoint and will help ease the strain on your eyes so you don't have to change careers.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2007

For the time that must use a computer, I highly recommend workrave to reduce both eye strain and repetitive stress injury.
posted by kc8nod at 9:47 AM on December 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

posted by bunnycup at 10:29 AM on December 21, 2007

Assuming your doctor is right, get an MBA and go into management.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2007

Response by poster:
Thanks to everyone for the feedback.

I intend to go for a 2nd (and probably 3rd) opinion before taking any action.

Regardless of the decision, getting a larger monitor is a *must* do.

posted by sandpine at 11:07 AM on December 21, 2007

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