Visual Hygiene - Caring for Your Eyes

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Visual hygiene is generally recommended for those who work long hours with computers, students who spend most of their time studying and people who constantly strain their eyes with close-up vision work such as painting and sewing.

The term "visual" is anything that relates to vision to attain or maintain sight. "hygiene" on the other hand is defined as the means to maintain health.  People are advised to maintain a good posture and sit in a location that has good lighting when carrying out any task that requires focusing. These are some useful tips to maintain your visual hygiene:

HARMON distance
The appropriate working distance for close-up work is called the HARMON distance. There is a relationship between posture, working distance, desk surface and lenses. The proper reading distance is either an elbow on our book or knuckles on our chin. It is around 35 to 40 centimetres for adults and lesser for children.

Here are some useful tips to avoid heavy strain on the eyes. Occasionally look at a distant object and focus on it when reading. When studying place a bookmark 3 to 4 pages ahead then wake up and move around for a minute when you reach the bookmark. A person can suffer from impaired vision due to continuous near-visual task with wrong working distance.

Maintain good posture
Maintaining a good posture is important especially for Visual Display Unit (VDU) users who are under VDU conditions. An example of a VDU is a computer monitor.

Practicing bad posture while using a VDU will cause neck strain and backaches. Proper posture provides maximum oxygen intake, which allows other organ to function well. If there is insufficient oxygen supply, teh eyes can easily get tired and over a period of time, the quality of eyesight will start to deteriorate.

Tilt the visual task position
When using the computer, the angle of the computer monitor screen is adjust parallel with user. The normal distance is between 18” to 24” from the monitor screen to the user and with an angle 20° from the desk. It reduces eyestrain because the screen is slightly below eye level. For children, an appropriate desk and chair is required.

Proper distance for viewing
Those children who spend most of the time in front of the television, parents must be conscious of the distance between the television and the children. They should sit 6 to 8 feet from the television. Parents must wisely change their children television viewing time to some outdoor activities. It is a preventive step to reduce eyestrain due to prolonged near work. The more time spent in front of the television, the higher the child’s accommodation ability, and due to that the child will have accommodation spasm. The condition is worse when the child watches television in dim illumination.

Good lighting
The most important thing in doing the near work is good lighting. Ensure that lighting is adjusted at the right position of the user’s task. This is to maximise illumination for visually-demanding tasks while minimising glare on the computer screen. The first step to reduce glare is to control the source either by closing the window blinds, turning off hallway lights or repositioning task lighting.

The second step is to use a monitor glare screen, change the monitor position and angle, and adjust the brightness and contrast of its display.

Writing habit
Parents and teachers should teach children the right way of writing. Children should be encouraged to hold a pen or pencil an inch from the tip. Their wrong writing habit may induce head-tilt. Children tend to tilt their heads or move their bodies to one side in order to see the tip of their pen. The resulting strain of the neck and back muscle from such practices will disturb the focus on their studies.

Peripheral awareness
The eyes should be trained not to focus only on one object. The eyes must be trained to view the peripheral vision. When the eye is well-trained to view the peripheral vision, it can easily relax because it has good sensitivity of the peripheral vision even though it is focusing on a near-visual work. It will indirectly relax the accommodation of the eye.

Reading or sustained near work avoidance during travelling
Reading or carrying out any task that requires near-visual focus is very bad for one's eyes. It is better to see the green scenery outdoors instead as such practice will relax the accommodation of the eye. When the car is moving, our cochlear will send messages to the brain that induce visual relaxation. However, if the eyes are used for near-vision tasks during travelling, it will induce other eye movements such as the saccadic eye movement.

Healthy lifestyle practice
Healthy lifestyle practices including maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise pattern are essential in the maintenance of visual hygiene. Nutritional diet that is rich in Vitamin A is known to be good for the eyes.

Regular body exercise will induce the secretion of certain hormones that can relax the body muscles, which will in turn benefit the eyes. One who wishes to maintain good eye health should not only exercise his/her body but also practice regular eye-exercises. such exercises will increase visual stamina and will also improve vision.

Vision is indeed a precious gift that one must look after. In this modern era, vision is essential for almost everything be it work or play. As we age, our visual skills either improve or deteriorate. Therefore, the importance of maintaining a healthy visual lifestyle to minimise the stress and eye-strain of prolonged visual tasks simply cannot be stressed enough. Visual hygiene helps to develop better visual abilities.

Author: Vinodhini Naidu Munikrishnayya & Genevieve Tan Shu Thung

Copyright © 2013 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources 
Holistic Living Annex (JANUARY 2013)

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