Eyes Matter

Decades ago, the biggest school-related threat to our eye health was the reading list. Today, when most of us spend massive amounts of time staring at lighted screens on computers, televisions, cell phones, etc., the phrase “back to school” should serve as a reminder to protect our used and abused eyes. Here are three basic steps to get you started:

1. As with all health matters, the first and best step is prevention. Eyes that aren’t fatigued from overuse are not likely to cause problems. This could mean simple measures like turning off your cell phone at points during the day, allocating a particular amount of TV time in your life, and setting your computer’s clock to give you a notice every 15 minutes so you can step away from the bright screen and tiny text to give your eyes a much-needed break.

2. Of course, prevention is not the point when you already have burning, itching, tired eyes from five hours straight surfing the Web and reading your textbook footnotes. That’s a good time to practice a little TLC, e.g. lie down with a warm compress over your closed eyes and do some deep breathing. Every time your hectic mind starts to panic that you’re losing valuable time on the study treadmill, take solace in how much more effective your efforts will be with rested vision.

3. The vast majority of ophthalmologists will scoff at the concept of eye exercises, but I suggest you not allow Western medical myopia (pun very much intended) to blind you from common sense. This is not to say that a serious eye issue should not be checked, but I’m talking about exercising and stretching your tight, tired eye muscles the same way you’d handle a stiff neck. Here’s a sample from the folks at eHow: “Face straight ahead, and without turning your head, look up as far as possible. Look in a circle by looking right as far as possible, then circle your eyes down and to the left. Close your eyes and relax for a few seconds. Repeat the exercise in the opposite direction, looking up first and then circling to the left. Repeat the entire exercise 10 to 15 times.”

If you doubt that your eyes can be helped through simple measures like the one above, I suggest you consider these words from some guy named Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Mickey Z. took two breaks while writing this column and can be found on the Web at MickeyZ.net.