Can “Looking” at Something Too Hard or Too Long Hurt Your Eyes?

A common question in the exam lane is “Doctor, do you think I hurt my eyes by reading too much or using the computer too much”?  There is logic in this question, and, fortunately in terms of causing an eye disease the answer is no for most people.   However, extended near work has been implicated in causing ones myopia (nearsightedness) to increase,and for people with extremely high prescriptions, health problems can ocur.

“Working distance” is the term doctors use to describe the distance from the front of the eye to the object of regard, in this case a book or a computer monitor.  If an object of regard is read for extended periods of time at distances that are close to the eye, some people will experience an increase in myopia.  These people may notice that everytime they go to the eye doctor a prescription change is recommended, and may even experience some frustration or anxiety over the change.  When the eye undergoes this kind of increase in myopia, it stretches, or lengthens, axially.  This is usually not a problem, however in people who are severely nearsighted, an increase in axial length may lead to a higher incidence of retinal holes, tears, degenerations and possibly detachments.

Of course we are in a world where we can’t avoid near work – students have to study, and parents have to work, so here are some recommendations to minimize the complications caused by intense near work; When reading text, the material should be greater than 16 inches from your face.  When using a computer, the monitor shouldn’t be closer than your extended reach (to your extended fingertips).   Be sure to discuss this with your optometrist at your next eye examination.  See an article on that discusses near work by clicking this link and check out our old post on “How Close Work Causes Vision Change”.

Copyright 2010 – Dr. Alan Glazier All Rights Reserved

Information courtesy of the Doctors of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care; Optometrists, Ophthalmologists and Opticians serving Rockville, Potomac and Gaithersburg Maryland

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