Stop Visual Stress Before It Stops You

Most people do not begin to think about or hear from their eye doctor about “reading glasses” until they reach the age of 40 or so.  Many behavioral optometrists believe – and have seen enough positive responses in patients over the last 90 years to know for sure – that reading glasses should be considered for anyone who has begun reading.  The human visual system was not designed for prolonged viewing under the following conditions:

          - Sitting still for extended periods of time
          - Viewing at short distances for extended periods of time
          - Looking at a flat surface for extended periods of time

Sound familiar?  This is what so many of us are doing for hours and hours, day after day.  One group of optometrists discovered, many decades ago, that the use of specially prescribed near lenses could reduce stress on the visual system. They can also prevent deterioration of eyesight and vision in many people of various ages.

Most of the heavy lifting, and therefore most of the stress on the visual system, arises from all of the close work we do.  This has become more of an issue as time has gone by.  First came the printed page, then the computer, and now all of the hand-held devices.  Hand-held devices are exponentially worse for two main reasons: 1) these devices are held closer to the eyes, and the closer the task the greater the stress on the visual system, and 2) the amount of time spent viewing at these even closer distances compounds the stress considerably.  This near stress on the visual system is a major cause of nearsightedness (myopia) and astigmatism.  The stress is compounded by wearing distance contact lenses while doing close work.

In general, it is productive to consider most indoor activities.  Anything closer than 20 feet presents a greater workload for the visual system.  The regular use of near lenses for all indoor activities can be beneficial in many ways.

Let’s take as an example a nearsighted individual whose distance prescription is -4.00 and is wearing -3.00 for all near, and preferably all indoor activities.  They work, and spend most of their time indoors – like so many of us.  Wearing the -3.00 lenses for all indoor activities provides conditions under which the brain can recalibrate.  That is, weaker lenses create opportunities for the level of distance acuity that was present with stronger lenses to emerge with the weaker ones.  The constant use of the stronger lenses prevents any possibility for any improvement in this regard.

I often see this type of scenario in my office.  In many cases, there is at least some degree of change immediately, sometimes it takes a day or two and sometimes it requires the inclusion of some vision therapy.  In very few cases, there is no change in distance acuity after spending time in the reduced lenses.  In any event, the use of a specific near prescription is always preferable.

If your eye care professional has not talked to you about using a different prescription for reading and computers, you are not getting the most comprehensive care available.  You might want to find a doctor who looks at the whole person and all the things you do with your vision every day.


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