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21 May 2024

Keep your eyes on the job


By Aimee Greaves

Hours spent staring at a computer screen every day make even the most dedicated worker tired. Relentless typing and concentration take its toll on our sight, and people often complain of aching eyes as the day draws to a close.

Recent research conducted by the University of Ulster in Ireland found that while most people blink 15 times a minute, staring at a computer screen can reduce this by up to two thirds, which can lead to serious problems. Blinking is vital to keep eyes moist and remove irritants, therefore those who don't do it as often are prone to infection, and in serious cases vision loss.

While this is at the extreme end of the scale, some office workers blame computers for less serious problems, such as blurred vision, which can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or even laser eye surgery for a permanent solution.

Impaired vision can also have a knock-on effect, causing other health complaints, which is why Dr Lama Toufiq Sharbek, a specialist ophthalmologist at Medcare Hospital says it is important to see a doctor as soon as problems occur.

"Dry eye can cause many serious complaints such as inflammation or cornea abrasion, but poor sight can also cause headaches too which can affect concentration and performance," she says.

Having surgery can seem like an extreme measure to solve the problem, but Dr Farooq Ashraf, from Atlanta Vision Clinic in Dubai, says it is a quick and effective solution.

"In the long term it's a safer option than contact lenses because they have a risk of infection but once the eyes have healed from surgery that is it," he says.

Unless the eyes change, which is rare once people reach adulthood, one bout of surgery should be enough, says Dr Ashraf.

"Computers tend to dry out eyes if people stare at them all day, especially if people wear contacts. They can also cause eyes to ache, while glasses cause their own problems as they steam up when people walk outside thanks to the humidity levels. But surgery, for those who are suitable candidates, takes all this away," he says.

At a cost of between Dh8,000 and Dh15,000 depending on whether patients have one or both eyes treated and the severity of their condition, laser eye surgery does not come cheap. But Dr Ashraf, who flies in from the United States once or twice a month to perform the procedure on patients in the UAE, says it is worth the expense.

"Surgery frees people up to do anything they want. People cannot go swimming if they are wearing contacts, but treating long or short sightedness with surgery means they don't have these restrictions," he adds.

"This, as well as patients with friends who have had the procedure, is making it more popular. Past patients encourage others and it's driving up the numbers. Thanks to technological advancements, people can see better after surgery than they ever could with glasses or contacts."

Protect your eyes

- Take regular screen breaks

- Use eye drops if they start to feel tired or dry

- Take contacts out when you get home from work

- Wear glasses one day a week to give your eyes a break

- Have regular eye examinations. They should be tested at least every two years, or annually for those over the age of 50