Monday, November 18, 2013

Series Post: Ask Dr. Dina - Eyestrain Reloaded

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I do not hold a current medical license or certification (I let them lapse because I no longer work in the medical field and don't intend to ever again). What I do have is an extensive medical background in various fields. Everything you read here is the result of either education, training, research and interpretation, or personal experience. The information in this post is not to be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice or examination. Seriously, if you're having an immediate medical problem and you're reading this blog for help, get off the damned computer and call an ambulance!

Note: This post originally appeared in 2011 when the Evil League of Evil Writers had a two-week theme of self-care tips for writers. Today's post is made of 100% recycled materials, because the original post I wanted to do needs a little more research. Yes, I research these Dr. Dina posts like a big bitch. What? You thought I just pulled all those charts and graphs and source cited links out of my ass? Fuck no. Those posts take anywhere from four hours to half a day to write and properly format, and the next one I have planned I don't want to rush, so here. Have a ball. (HA HA! I KILL ME!)

Continuing our [previous 2011] two-week theme of self-care tips for writers, I want to talk about eyeballs.

What? Why are you laughing?


(What's with the laughing…?)

Well, whatever the reason for your laughing, taking care of your eyes is something most people – especially writers – overlook.

For writers, it's especially difficult. We stare at a computer screen (or blank page, for those who use pen and paper still *cough*archaic*cough*) for hours a day, and a lot of it isn't even for writing reasons. Most of us use computers at our jobs, or just browse the 'Net, or whatever. There are some of us (who shall remain naMEless) who play computer games and so on.

Then there's the research, the social networking, and so on.

Most everyone forgets about the health of their eyes. Unless you suffer from chronic dry eyes or have contacts that dry out when you stare too long at the computer screen, most of us never even think about putting in eye drops. That's medicine, right? If you don't have pinkeye, why would you use eye drops?

Because your eyes are a part of your body that you use constantly. They need lubrication just like any other moving part.

Writers stereotypically have bad eyesight to begin with. What? We do! I said it was a stereotype. I'm no exception. I've worn glasses since I was three. I got contacts when I was ten. HARD contacts, or as they called them back then, "rigid gas-permeables." This was supposed to slow the change from year to year of my eyeball (I said it again!), and it did work to a degree. However, I'm what's called a "high myope."

Were it not for the wondrous invention of laser eye surgery, I would have worn glasses with my contacts at the age of eighteen. Fortunately LASIK technology came along and I was able to have it done – after a different laser surgical procedure done on my left eye called "retinal scarring." This was done in order to strengthen my tissue-paper thin retina enough to survive the pressure of the LASIK procedure. (I won't gross out the sensitive amongst us with the details of it. And before you go looking it up online, remember that I had this surgery done when the procedure was in its infancy at one of the best eye centers in the country. For all the advanced technology, it was a little more brutal than it is now.) One of the side-effects is that I must always use eye drops…sometimes more than once a day. Upon waking is the hardest time. I reach immediately for the eye drops then. If you think this is annoying, well…it's a huge trade-up from all I had to do with my contacts and glasses every day. So I have to use eye drops every day for the rest of my life. FAIR TRADE.

They warned me when I had it done that I'd probably have to come back in a year or two for what's called "an enhancement." (Basically they'd have to do the whole thing again because my prescription was so high that they couldn't lower it all they needed to in one go.) I did this, too. (That's surgery number three for those keeping score at home.)

It's been about ten [update: thirteen] years now since my last eye surgery, and a few years ago I started having problems with my right eye. I went immediately to the ophthalmologist (medical eye doctor – different from an optician/optometrist you see in your local grocery store or eyeglass place) and he ran me through a series of tests and made sure everything was at least functional.

He crunched numbers and pondered things and gave me eye medicines to use and made me promise to take "eye breaks." For three weeks I had a timer by my computer, and every fifteen minutes it would ding and I'd have to look away from the computer screen at a far corner of the room for at least a minute.

It got old quickly.

When it was time for me to get checked out again, he nodded in approval.

And then he wrote me a prescription for glasses.


This time, they're different however. This time they're for driving/distance vision only, and they're a very low prescription. Here's an example:

Post-LASIK vision: Both eyes 20/10
Eye problem: Left eye 20/10, Right eye 20/100
Fixed eye-problem: Left eye 20/10 Right eye 20/30
Corrected vision with glasses: Left eye: 20/10 Right eye: 20/20

More or less.

It's been a few years now and I haven't had a problem with my eyes. I am still conscious of them and the need to rest them. To look away from the computer screen or television or even a book I'm really into. Your eyes are such a vital part of you, and most people don't even consider their health.

Eyeballs are tough. They take a lot of abuse and a lot of strain. They're also delicate, fragile things. Take care of them.

Look away from the computer screen. Right now. Go on, I'll wait.


How'd that feel? Pretty nice, eh?

Next time you're at the store, pick up some preservative-free single-use vials of a refreshing eye drop, or get those nice ones made for those who use computers all day. Pop a couple drops in every now and again. (Unless you're like my mother and can't stand the thought of putting something in your own eyes and have to have someone else force your eye open just to put a drop in.) They even make some out there for you allergy sufferers for that itchy, watery eye thing.

Seriously. Eye drops. Get some. Use them.

Your eyes will thank you. Also, you may get more work done. No promises, though. I'm just saying that you're more productive when you're comfortable.

Questions about medical issues with your writing? Leave them in the comments below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. (THESE MUST APPLY TO FICTIONAL SITUATIONS ONLY. I AM NOT YOUR DOCTOR, NOR A SUBSTITUTE FOR ONE.)

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