Coping with eye strain

With the exam season on, it’s not surprising that many students are complaining about eye strain. with the correct eye care program, one can solve this problem. Dr Keiki Mehta shares with us a few tips

By Zoha Tapia

With the exam season on, it’s not surprising that many students are complaining about eye strain. Constant studying and reading through text books just aggravates the strain on the eyes, thus leading to what is medically known as aesthenopia or what is more commonly known as eye strain.

However, with the correct eye care program, which includes eye exercises, a nutritious diet and certain precautions one can improve their vision and solve this problem. Dr Keiki Mehta, ophthalmic surgeon and director, Mehta International Eye Institute shares with us a few tips, which are beneficial not only for study overloaded students but also those who sit in front of computers for hours together. 

Dr Mehta says, “Eye strain is a condition wherein the eyes get tired and one experiences dull pain behind the eyes. Though ones vision may seem clear, there will be a discomfort experienced when reading.” Eye strain occurs mainly because our eyes are designed to constantly shift their focus between objects that are near and far, but when the eye focuses on a single, close up object for a long period of time it results in eye strain.

Symptoms of eye strain
  • Persistent redness on both the inner and outer corners of the eye
  • Watering of the eyes
  • Experiencing difficulty in concentration whilst studying and reading
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Puffiness below the eye
  • Tendency to rub and press the eyes
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
Eye exercises to decrease eye strain

To prevent eye strain it is important to take constant breaks and exercise your eyes. The concept of eye exercises is based on rotating the eyes and making use of your convergent muscles, divergent muscles and the rotator separately. Dr Mehta shares a few simple eye exercises beneficial to your vision.

Exercising the convergent muscle: Sit erect and hold your finger three inches away from your nose. Concentrate on your finger till you can see it clearly. Hold this position for 10 counts. Then rest for a few minute and repeat the process 5 times. Now hold the finger 3 inches away from your forehead, focus and repeat the process. Following this hold your finger three inches away from your chin and repeat the procedure.

Exercising the divergent muscle: Imagine a clock dial a foot away and rotate your eyes to their end positions. After every clock hour, hold for 10 counts before moving on to the next clock position. 

Exercising the rotators: Think of a rainbow. Start with the bow convex upwards from the extreme left side. Move your eyes till they reach the extreme right side. Then move backwards imagining the rainbow to be upside down, and return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Nutritious diet for a healthy eye

“A healthy diet certainly helps reduce eye strain. Food rich in vitamins A, B, C and E like greens, tomatoes, watermelons, apricots, papaya, grapes and fish oil. These vitamins ensures a good eyesight, especially vitamin B, which helps in providing a clear focused vision,” says Dr Mehta. Along with these vitamins, zinc, magnesium and calcium are also important for the health of your eyes. Take care of what you eat and what you eat will take care of you. It is that simple logic that works with your body.

Dr Mehta’s eye strain prevention tips
  • It is a fallacy that sitting in front of a wall improves concentration. The eyes must be able to relax for distance and near vision. Sit facing a corridor or even next to a window where you can relax your eyes by looking far. In case your room does not permit it, place a mirror above you. 
  • Take a 5 minute break after every 40 minutes of study or staring at the computer. Get up and walk. The eyes get tired being anchored in a fixed position for a prolonged period of time. 
  • Schedule study sessions early in the morning rather than late at night. Its not about how much you read, but what you can remember and most important of all reproduce when required. Studying in the daytime is better as you will study faster, with a far better reproducible memory as at night fatigue leads to loss of the ability to concentrate. 
  • Adjust the lighting by making sure your room has enough ambient lighting. Reading in a dark room leads to eye stain as the contrast between the lighted and unlighted areas is too much. Light coming from a lamp at your side and back is easier on the eyes. 
  • When we concentrate a lot, the blink rate of the eye drops significantly. This leads to dryness, blurring and diffused vision. Blink frequently whenever you study for long periods. Blinking helps keep the eyes moist. Dry eyes lead to tired eyes. Using tear lubricants is a good idea.
  • If you need to work on the computer, position your monitor or laptop so that you are not looking at the screen straight on. Your eyes are designed to work in a position of depressed convergence. The top of the screen should not be higher than your eyes. You should be viewing the screen at a slight downward angle.
  • The brightness of the screen should be the same intensity as the lighting in the room. Increase the font size for easier reading. If you experience a flickering sensation from your computer screen, try lowering the screen's brightness or increase the refresh rate.
  • Cut down on large meals. It simply slows you down. Small, non-oily meals, at regular short intervals are far better. Cut down on excess tea and coffee, as they only provide a temporary boost. Take your multivitamins regularly.
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