March is Save Your Vision Month

AOA Offers Insight in Honor of 'Save Your Vision Month'

Whether using a computer or a sledge hammer to get the job done, workers can suffer visual discomfort, eye strain, and eye injuries in the workplace. In fact, as the American Optometric Association points out, such injuries are not only common, but cost billions in lost productivity each year.

AOA notes that although 2,000 workers each day in the United States sustain job-related eye injuries requiring medical treatment, safety experts and doctors of optometry agree that 90 percent of all eye and vision injuries could be prevented with simple safety steps such as wearing properly designed and fitted protective eyewear.

"Healthy vision is critical to successfully completing job-related tasks," says James Sheedy, O.D. Ph.D., director of the Vision Ergonomics Laboratory at the College of Optometry at Pacific University and AOA's occupational vision specialist. "And while most people think of construction or manufacturing as high-risk occupations where eye injuries are prevalent, even jobs requiring 'smart phones,' laptops, and desktop computers can cause vision problems if not used properly."

According to AOA's American Eye-Q® survey, nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) spend five or more hours per day using a computer or a PDA (personal digital assistant). And while technology can easily improve the efficiencies of one's life, prolonged use of electronic devices may lead to symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) such as eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision, and loss of focus.

"CVS can be a serious problem for those who spend hours in front of a computer or hand-held electronic device on a daily basis," Sheedy says. "However, in this digital era, no one expects Americans to simply stop using these devices. Small steps can make big changes to ease vision strain."

AOA encourages all tech users to follow the recommendations below; doing so, it says, will go a long way in keeping productivity up and discomfort down while surfing the Web, editing a document, or even sending an e-mail:

  • Give It A Rest: Remember the 20-20-20 rule. At least every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. The Eye-Q® survey found that the majority of Americans don't follow this rule; more than half (59 percent) take breaks every hour, or less frequently.
  • Size Up: Smaller screens on hand-held devices usually favor tiny type that challenges your vision. Instead of bringing the screen closer to the eyes, increase the font size so the device can be used at a distance that is more comfortable for your eyes.
  • Sharpen Up: Better resolution offers greater clarity and usually more comfort. Adjust the brightness of the screen to a comfortable intensity, neither too bright nor too dim.
  • Reduce Glare: Hand-held devices present challenges in various lighting conditions. When possible, try to make sure lighting is not directly behind the head or in front. AOA recommends users try to reduce glare, which may ease reading and can make a bigger difference than increasing the font.
  • Look Down: It's easier on the eyes to focus on reading material that is below eye level; therefore, AOA recommends a computer monitor or hand-held device be positioned slightly below eye level.

Many professions -- from auto repair to health care -- require protective eyewear to help reduce the risk of eye injuries. AOA advises that with proper eye protection such as safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and helmets, thousands of injuries could be prevented. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in approximately 60 percent of eye injury cases, workers failed to wear proper protective eyewear.

While working around the house, it seems an even greater percentage fail to protect their sight, AOA adds. The association's Eye-Q® survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans do not wear safety glasses or goggles when working on home improvement projects.

"Eye safety -- whether at home or in the work place -- is proven to prevent vision loss," Sheedy says. "The two main reasons workers experience eye injuries are either because they are not wearing eye protection or they are wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job."

AOA recommends four key elements to protect eyes from injury:

  • Know the eye safety dangers.
  • Eliminate hazards before starting work such as using machine guards, work screens, or other engineering controls.
  • Wear the proper eye protection and make sure it is correctly fitted.
  • Keep safety eyewear in good condition and replace it if it is damaged.

In addition, AOA advises visiting your optometrist. While it's important to practice good eye health habits at work, the best line of defense is to visit a doctor of optometry on a regular basis for comprehensive eye exams to help ensure healthy vision, the group says. AOA recommends adults age 60 and under have a comprehensive eye exam every two years and then annually thereafter. Based on an individual's eye health, the eye doctor may recommend more frequent visits. To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on eye safety in the workplace, please visit www.AOA.org.

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