– Ed

Lubricating drops bring relief

Two main eye-related problems occur regularly in an office setting. They are dry eye and neck and shoulder pain related to posture. Apart from making you miserable, they can seriously transform productivity. It’s hard to do your best when suffering discomfort. A differentiating factor that comes into play is age. Different age groups require different types of visual corrections, which will impact on how the work station should be set up. You should also not underestimate the atmosphere in the office because heating and air-conditioning systems put a strain on your eyes. So make sure you have a pleasant indoor climate by ventilating sufficiently in summer and increasing the humidity in the room in winter with the aid of water bowls placed on the radiators.

Dry Eyes

People with desk jobs have routines and workspaces that make it more likely for them to have dry eye. An office job is hard labour for the eyes: they become dry from the constant staring at the monitor. Air that is too dry, as is often the case in air-conditioned or heated offices, brings an additional burden to the eyes. Eyes can itch, burn and hurt. Relief can come from a correct set-up workplace and lubricating eye drops.

What’s in a tear?

They’re a mix of:

  • Water, for moisture
  • Oils, for lubrication
  • Mucus, for even spreading
  • Anti-bodies and particular proteins that keep infection at bay

The ingredients come from special glands around your eye. Dry eyes often mean your tear system is out of whack.

What Causes Dry Eyes?

Infrequent blinking causes the eyes to dry out. Although the movement is tiny: blinking is essential for the health of our eyes. With the help of this “windscreen wiper effect,” the tear film on the eye is renewed at regular intervals. While we are staring at the monitor, even the brain forgets to trigger this involuntary reflex. The system falters, and the surface of the eye is not sufficiently lubricated.

Other causes include:

  • The natural aging process, especially menopause.
  • Side effects of certain drugs like antihistamines.
  • Diseases that affect your ability to make tears, like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases.
  • Problems that don’t allow your eyelids to close the way they should.

Why do dry eyes water?

Neck and back strain are common complaints

When your eyes are dry, they start to water. This may appear paradoxical at first, but there is a very logical explanation: due to the lack of blinking, small particles remain in the eye as they are not washed out. These foreign bodies intensify the existing irritation which is already there. Your eye produces a lot of lacrimal fluid as a reaction to this, to get rid of the foreign body. However, the additional lacrimal fluid does not lubricate the eye because it flows straight off. A dysfunction in the composition of the lacrimal fluid can also lead to your eyes continually watering. Typical symptoms related to dry eyes are burning, tiredness and red eyes.

These are some of the factors to look out for:

  • You don’t blink much while staring at the computer or video screens.
  • You look at something for a long time from the same fixed, close distance, such as when working at a computer or reading papers.
  • Glare hits the computer screen from bright overhead lighting.
  • You sit near air conditioning or heating vents.
  • Your office has poor lighting.
  • Your office has dry air.

Finding Relief

Artificial tear fluid can bring quick relief. There are many over the counter drops and gels available. These drops will lubricate the surface of the eye and may moisturise the ocular surface cells by restoring osmotic balance plus protecting your natural tears with a lipid enhancement. However, the first consideration must always be to review the office environment and the way the work station is set up. Identifying and eliminating and outside cause, such as air-conditioning, should be the first step. Prolonged chronic dry eyes can result in complications and are best dealt with by an Eye Care Practitioner.


Poor posture may be the root of the problem.

If we are unable to see the monitors clearly, we may adopt awkward postures. This can lead to physical discomfort, especially in our eyes, neck, and shoulders. It can also affect our enjoyment using the device and our ability to concentrate. All the fancy chairs, desks, and equipment in the world is not going to help an employee who slouches or slumps awkwardly at her desk.

Monitors and other display devices should be placed at just below eye level of the individual using them. Viewing a display should not require straining of the neck nor squinting of the eyes. Ergonomics dictates that individuals not be required to turn the neck to the left, right, up, or down to view a display. This principle is fundamental to uphold and a great guideline.

Comfort and efficiency can be improved by ensuring that the devices are set-up correctly and that they are viewed from a comfortable distance and position.

Here are some guideline for setting up the work station.

  • Never accept your poor set-up because the office furniture does not allow change – you have a right to have a correct set-up work station.
  • Never have to look up to your screen – this will cause muscle strain in your neck and shoulders as well as in your eyes.
  • Your monitor should be just below your eye level.
  • If you work in a standing position, make sure your screen is still just below your eye-line. Not at desk height, forced to bend down and tilt your chin to see it (typical at car rental counters).
  • Keep a distance of fifty to eighty centimeters from your monitor.
  • Your desk should be about fifty centimeters below your horizontal line of vision. That way, you can ensure that you can easily look down when you look at the monitor. This is more comfortable
    for your eyes.
  • Make sure you have the correct lighting at your workplace – you shouldn’t have to dark-adapt when walking into the office.
  • Your monitor should not reflect any other light source.

Visual Correction

The starting point to address any visual discomfort should always be a comprehensive eye examination. These symptoms could be headaches, blurry vision, aching eyes, burning eyes, fatigue and lack of concentration. Even neck and shoulder pain could be caused by using spectacles which are not set up correctly for the work station. For those who have entered the domain of presbyopia (blurred vision at near on account of aging), there are many different factors to be taken into account at the work station. Multi-Focal wearers, if the optic centers have not been set up properly, may have to tilt the chin to see the screen. This is very undesirable. There are great spectacle options for computer users. Here is a good tip: before going to the optometrist, let your colleague take photos of you in your natural working set-up and posture. Take measurements of your working distances. For presbyopes, it is all about prescribing lens powers for the correct working distance. Having this information will place your optometrist in a strong position to make the right calls for
your prescription.

Give them a break

Also, it would help if you spoiled your stressed eyes with a small break now and then. Look away from the monitor briefly and let your gaze wander around the room. It is about moving your eyes, not your head, that way, even the small eye muscles get trained to relax fully. So-called “palming” can have a regenerative effect: warm your hands for this by rubbing them together, then close your eyes and gently lay your palms on them. The warmth and darkness will relax your stressed eyes.

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