Are you straining to read this?

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You and I share something in common.

And it’s not just our devilishly good looks.

Right now, we’re both staring at a flickering computer screen.

If you’re like me, you do this every single day, sometimes for hours at a time .. . looking at websites . . . reading emails . . . writing documents . . .

Computers are now very much part of our lives.

But the mega-companies who produce computers are so keen on their multi-billion pound revenues, that they are a little shy of telling us about any harmful effects.

The truth is, if you don’t take a few simple precautions, computer screens can cause terrible eye strain, headaches and nearsightedness.

But never fear – I have some answers. . .

The science that should worry computer companies

The American Optometric Association is an organisation of 32,000 optometrists. Their studies show that 75% of computer workers have eye and vision problems

They say that spending hours staring at the computer is unnatural for human eyesight.

Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out!

Humans evolved for over 10,000 years without computers. The whole point of eyesight was that we could spot a sabre-tooth tiger a mile off and run for our lives.

Thag the caveman would have been a goner very quickly if he’d been busy staring at a laptop.

‘There is no disagreement among experts that we’re seeing more and more computer related vision problems,’ says Dr. Kent M. Daum, an optometrist and professor at the University of Alabama School of Optometry.

‘The eye isn’t meant to close focus all day. Doing so can lead to considerable problems.’

A recent study at Toho University School of Medicine in Tokyo backed this up. It suggested that glaucoma may stem from computer eyestrain – but only if you are already short sighted.

Now, you might wonder why these problems don’t occur when you read for long periods.

The reason is simple.

When you read from a piece of paper your eye takes in a reflected image from daylight or lamplight, but when looking at words on the screen, you’re looking right into the source of the light itself.

Because of this, some statistics suggest that as many as 90 per cent of computer users experience symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

Symptoms includes eye strain, headaches, dry and irritated eyes, blurred vision, and neck and back pain.

Sound familiar?

Then don’t worry. Here’s what to do . . .

The healthiest way to set up your computer or tablet

– Place your computer screen 20 degrees below eye level.

– Dim the brightness of your screen using the controls on your monitor – but not so that it goes grey and dull, as that could also cause strain.

– Position your monitor so that the windows in the room are to the side of it, instead of in front or behind you.

– Don’t work at the computer in a room that is too bright. Too much light from too many sources can increase the strain. Dim or switch off the overhead light bulbs.

– Use an adjustable desk lamp. Angle it so that it shines on whatever you are working from, and doesn’t reflect off the screen.

– Get an anti-glare screen, there are loads on Amazon and some specifically for a particular tablet or screen.

There are also some very simple exercises you can do that will protect you for life.

Exercises that protect your eyesight

Sounds strange to say, but it’s true. When you work at a computer, you blink less – about five times less, in fact.

So every half an hour, blink ten times very slowly, as if you are falling asleep. This will re-moisten your eyes.

Also make sure you look away from the screen every 30 minutes and focus on something in the distance for at least 20 seconds.

(I have just done this myself. I stared at the tree in our garden and spotted what appears to a convention of wood pigeons eyeing up my cabbages and lettuce plants… time to increase security!)

Now for some weirder suggestions . . .

On the web I found some exercises designed by Dr Marc Grossman. He suggests the following:

– Rub your hands together for 15 seconds, then gently cup them over your closed eyes for another two minutes.

– Place a bowl of hot water (not hot enough to burn you) and ice cold water in front of you. Dip a cloth in the hot water and place against your closed eyes for 30 seconds. Then do the same with the cold. Alternate the hot and cold a few times, then dry off.

– Relax, exhale and drop your chin to your chest. Inhale and lean your head to the left, then the right, then back to the middle again, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Now repeat this in the other direction.

There are also some dietary solutions you might want to try . . .

Cure eye strain with vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for keeping your eyes strong. It also helps them adapt to changes in light, and can treat night-blindness.

The richest sources are liver, fish liver oils, milk, milk products, butter and eggs. Liver is particularly good because vitamin A is primarily stored in the liver of animals and humans.

Also boost your intake of vitamin E and zinc, which help the body use vitamin A more effectively.

Even more importantly, you need beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A inside your body.

Your best sources of beta-carotene are carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach and butternut squash.

(Did your mother ever tell you that carrots could help you see in the dark? Well, she was right!)

Now it’s time to go and wage war against the pigeon hordes with stout poles and netting… they will not be dining on my brassicas!

Yours, as always