Asthenopia - Eye Strain - from working all the time [solved]

I've been suffering from eye strain for over a year now, I just can't seem to shake it. There are many articles on the internet that include various solutions about what one should do in the event of developing eye strain, this isn't one of them, rather I'm going to just list all the ones I've tried. In my case, the best advise is to simply take time off and let my eyes recover, but everything I like doing involves sitting in front of a monitor.

My eye strain started with a combination of working 10 hours at a computer screen, then playing the computer game Battlefield 2 in the evening. After a few years of this, my eye strain got so bad that I now don't play any computer games at all. Below is a list of the things I tried to shake eye strain.

GP

The first thing I did was go to my local GP. The doctor had a look into my eyes and told me that they couldn't see anything obvious, and that I should go see an optician just to make sure all was well.

Opticians

So I took the doctors advice and went to see an optician, where I then endured the usual eye tests. I was promptly told I had 20/20 vision and that, in fact, there was nothing wrong with my eyes. Tests involved sitting at a machine that blew air into my eyes, which I hated by the way and kept flinching like a little girl. Also, going through an eye chart with each eye, and the doc took a very good look into each eyeball - nothing doing!

Monitor settings

As my eye strain got worse, the less my eyeballs could tolerate the the glare of the screen. So over the last year I had to keep adjusting the brightness to the point where it is now on the lowest setting. I've spent a fair amount of time trying various settings of brightness, contrast, and gamma. For me, it didn't make much difference at all.

Eye Exercises

There are lots of inter-web posts offering differing ways to exercise those eyeballs. I found one that I particularly like here, but perhaps it's because I find the girl more pleasing on the eye than the exercise itself (sad I know!). Doing this every morning does help I feel.

Glasses

So after looking on the inter-web for more solutions, as you do, it seems that yellow tinted glasses help relax eyes. After some further research, I decided to get a pair of Gunnar Optiks that state to have a mixture of advanced technologies to combat eye strain. Technically, I think they do work as they reduce the glare of the screen, also they make text look a little bigger due to a slight magnification. Though, I think they only ease eye strain slightly, and I mostly wear them now because they make me look clever.

Bigger text

It makes sense that when the text you are reading is too small, your eyes have to strain more. So I now always make text bigger in my browser by clicking Ctrl++. Though, as I use the Eclipse software for work, I had to use a custom plugin to help zoom text in. Doing this does make a big difference if your are forced to read for long periods.

Ergonomics

Followed all the instructions from an array of posts on the inter-web. I now sit a fair distance form the monitor, eyes slightly level to the top of the monitor. Though I touch type so my eyes are always on the screen.

Lighting

With regards to the ambience of the room I work and live in, I've tried different types of bulbs, different light intensities, and different light placements. None of those made any difference to easing my eyes. I now work with good overhead lighting at all times, and make sure not to have any reflective glare on my monitor.

Monitor back-lighting

I started using a SAD light behind my monitor as a back-light to reduce the glare of the screen. I'm using a SAD light as it mimics daylight but is small enough only to provide subtle lighting to the wall behind my monitor. I believe this has been slightly beneficial and have invested in two monitor back-light strips that I'm still currently waiting to arrive in the post. An example of this can be seen here.

Computer software

I've just recently installed F.lux and EyeDefender. I thought F.lux was a brilliant idea as it gives your computer a different colour tone according to the time of day, which is good for me as I use the same computer for work as I do socially. Now, in the evening when my eyes are most tired, the screen doesn't glare so much. Though, after using it, I think it's only helped my eye strain very slightly. EyeDefender is less pretty than F.lux and works in a completely different way. It is designed to remind you to rest your eyes by using a popup message, or it can take over your screen completely like a screensaver. I have to say, although this small bit of software is VERY annoying, I think this is the single most thing I've tried so far that has greatly reduced my eye strain. It forces me to rest my eyes regularly, and I've set it to prompt me every 14 minutes to have a 2 minute break. In those two minutes I stand up and stretch, do palming for the first minute, then look out of my window for the second minute.

Humidifier & Blinking

I bought a humidifier because I don't blink enough when I'm looking at a monitor. I don't feel like it's goind much, although forcing myself to blink more does make my eyes feel slightly better by the end of the day.

Summary

For me, reducing eye strain is simple - take a long long holiday and don't look a monitor for at least a week. Also take regular breaks throughout the day when at a monitor. If I had to choose from the above what solution works best, it would be the F.lux software.

Update

OK, after a few years since I wrote this post I still suffer from eye strain, quite badly actually - I didn't follow my own advice of taking breaks away from my computer. I stopped playing computer games 2 years ago, but still get eye strain from working long hours at a computer. I went for another eye test and they recommended I get some reading glasses and start using 'gel' eye drops because I have dry eyes. I'll add an update here in a month or two, hopefully the glasses and gel eye drops finally get rid of my eye strain.

FINAL UPDATE (4 YEARS LATER)

Yeah, I have Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. Idiot opticians didn't spot it. More information here: http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/meibomian-gland.htm