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Sue Archer

Oh, My Aching Eyeballs!

Brown human eyes in cartoon style with glasses
Olha Polishchuk © 123RF.com

Lately, I find myself wishing I’d picked a profession where I didn’t need to look at computer screens. Or read a lot. Or use my eyes at all, really. (Being a taste tester at a chocolate factory sounds like an attractive career change right about now.) My distance vision has always been terrible, but now I’m being challenged by the things that are right in front of me, like documents on deadline. Changing the text to a font the size of an elephant is just not cutting it. Especially since I’m also dealing with annoying blurry floaters hovering across my vision that I’ve been told are a “normal” sign of aging eyes. Seriously? Aargh.

I’m not going to give up, though. I love my work, and I want to be able to do it when I’m a hundred, if I want to. So, I recently made some changes to my editing habits.

First, I dealt with the blue light coming from my screen. I started doing manuscript assessments on my Kindle, and my eyes are enjoying the soothing e-ink (even when I’m reading a hair-pulling scene). I also downloaded the free f.lux app. My husband pointed out that my screen has more of a yellow cast at night now, but I’m delighted to say the change hasn’t been noticeable to me, except for the telling lack of an editing hangover.

Then there’s the brightness. My eye floaters are more noticeable against a harsh white background (hovering like a ghostly set of proofreading marks), so I experimented with different colours. I tried beige and light grey, but I discovered I like soft yellow the best. There’s enough contrast to make everything easy to read, and the friendly yellow colour helps to defuse any tendency I might have to feel dire about punctuation disasters.

I also changed my editing environment to match the latest ergonomic advice. The top of my screen is in line with my eyes, and my screen is arm’s length away from me. Besides helping to avoid eyestrain and dry eyes, it’s preventing me from slouching and creating a bad back to go with my bad eyes. I’m thinking about getting computer glasses, too, even if having yet one more set of glasses seems like giving in right now.

But the best thing I did was set a timer to remind me to take eye breaks every twenty minutes and look at something far away. Today, it’s the beautiful sunny day outside my window. You guys don’t mind if I take a break and enjoy it, do you? Of course not.

Oh, but it’s allergy season right now. Now where did I put those eye drops…

What do you do to help save your eyes? Please share your tips below!

~~~

Previous post from Sue Archer: Should You Only Edit «What You Know»?

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18 Comments on “Oh, My Aching Eyeballs!”

  • First zi got a much stronger prescription for reading glasses, then two years later, progressive lenses. Just one year after I bought the I’ve been diagnosed with cataracts. Wondering if any of this is work-related.

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      My sympathies, Susan! I hope not, but you’ve got to wonder. My distance vision has certainly taken a hit from years of working with screens. Luckily that part seems to have stabilized, even if the rest is now a mess. 🙂

  • Rachel

    says:

    Thanks for the advice, Sue! Much needed. I also set a timer and try to follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      I find that timer is essential, otherwise I forget! Glad to hear I’m not the only one.

  • Claudine

    says:

    I have the same eye problems. It’s time for me to head to the eye doctor to get a prescription for glasses to be used while I’m on the computer. I hear there’s a new lens coating to protect against blue light so I may give that a try. Good luck to you.

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      I hope it goes well for you, Claudine! Luckily they keep coming up with new developments to help address all the digital eyestrain. I’ve even seen a funding campaign for an e-ink monitor, which could be really interesting if it ever gets off the ground!

  • Apologies to all you editors suffering from the typos in my first comment, composed on my phone. I actually did reread and correct the text, but it reset itself to some arcane language I don’t recognize.

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      Don’t worry, Susan. I do that all the time. The joys of technology!

  • Nicholle

    says:

    I had a cousin who was a taster at a chocolate factory (Cadbury’s in England), so such a career change is possible! She was eventually promoted to developing new kinds of chocolate bars. On a more serious note, I invested in a large screen (I’d been working on a laptop) and adjust font size and lighting to accommodate my ever-changing eyesight (I seem to need stronger and stronger lenses, and the prescription changes with alarming frequency). I tried progressive lenses, but they didn’t work for me.

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      Yes – I’ve done the laptop thing, too, and the screen definitely wasn’t large enough. I hope your eyes slow down with those changes! And that’s a wonderful story about your cousin. What a fascinating job to design those new bars. I hope she didn’t end up getting sick of the taste of chocolate, though. I worked in a candy shop once, and after smelling the chocolate bars every day I found it much easier to pass up on my favourite treats!

  • Chrissie

    says:

    Thanks for the tip about changing the background to soft yellow rather than white; I’ve been bothered by those floaters lately! And I follow Rachel’s tip about looking away from the screen every now and then.

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      You’re welcome, Chrissie! It really does help me with all those distracting floaters.

  • Benoit Arsenault

    says:

    Hi,

    Great article. Floaters and flashing are problems that should be considered seriously. Better consult a specialist (http://www.cnib.ca/en/your-eyes/eye-conditions/floaters-flashing/Pages/default.aspx).

    I have been doing editing and writing for more than 32 years and, at 57, I have been having floaters and flashes for a few months. I am going to see a specialist in the coming days. I also need glasses (including computer glasses that are much more comfortable for long period of time doing computer or paper reading…). Having time off the screen is also a must for editors to get our eyes some rest.

    I also do a large part of my editing work on paper. This is less damaging for my eyes…

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      Benoit, thank you so much for sharing that link. I have indeed checked with my eye specialist and he verified that my eyes are okay – but it’s good to be wary of potential problems. I hope all goes well with your appointment!

      You have an excellent point about editing on paper. I sometimes do that for structural or developmental editing, and it’s such a relief not to have to stare at a screen.

  • lindsay dwarka

    says:

    It’s all good advice. I’ve become lazy about the 20-20-20 rule, so this is a good reminder for me.
    Thank you!

    • Sue Archer

      says:

      You’re welcome, Lindsay! It’s so easy to get caught up in editing something – the next thing you know, an hour has gone by. That’s why I need that timer. 🙂

  • You can lower the intensity of light your screen uses, under Display in Control Panel.
    You can start your day with a hot wet face cloth across the eyes, then saline in them to sooth.
    You can make one day a week a screen-free day – no FB, no emails, no reading, no editing.
    You can change the lighting of your work room throughout the day if you have several lamps.
    You can wear sunglasses over your glasses for an hour or two just to make a change.
    You can use saline again several times a day. You aren’t blinking enough when on computer.
    You can change the size of your font frequently so you have new visual info to adjust to.
    You can lay your closed eyes in the heels of your hands visualizing black velvet, for breaks.

  • Paul Cipywnyk

    says:

    Over the years I’ve invested in good, large monitors — my setup now is a 24″ and a 20″, both full-gamut, photo-editing quality IPS screens.

    I have «daylight» tubes in my overhead lighting, and my office is very bright — I’m used to it but some folks find it like an operating room : -). I also have two articulated spot lamps attached to my desk for focused lighting if necessary.

    I take a long walk in the woods (at least 45 minutes) nearly every day, usually just before or after lunch to break up the workday. We have a cat, and she gets me out of my office several times a day for feeding and playing.

    While I do some reading on «paper-style» Kindles and Kobos, I don’t use them within an hour or so of bedtime. If I do read up to bedtime, I try to read on paper, and with a lamp toward the yellow end of the spectrum.

    I got tri-distance transition lenses in my glasses several years ago, and quickly adjusted to them. I have soft contact lenses for hiking, working out, etc., but try to use them no more than four or five hours a day, a couple of days a week.

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