Looking Out for Your Eyes While Coding

in General

Think about it — when was the last time you gave the health of your eyes any thought? I’ll confess that I almost never think about it, but when I was researching for my recent article about healthy coding resolutions, I quickly realized just how important it is.

Eye health isn’t always at the top of our priority list when it comes to self care, but too much desk work can put our eyes under a lot of strain and even lead to more serious conditions like Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain.

Luckily, there’s a few simple things you can do to look after your eyes and keep them in top shape for all of your coding.

Test Your Eyes

Regular visits to the optometrist will make sure that you aren’t damaging your eyes and will ensure that you have the most appropriate glasses or lenses for your needs. Many optometrists offer specialty lenses that are coated to decrease reflection and block the worst of the blue light emanating from your monitor.

You also might want to check if your eye tests are covered by your employer or your health plan. So for example, UK employers are obliged by law to provide eye tests to everyone who uses a VDU (visual display unit) for work, and many also provide corporate discounts toward your glasses and lenses.

Check Your Lighting

Making sure that your workspace is properly lighted is important for your mood as well as your eyes. Try and work in natural light whenever possible, ideally with the window to your side instead of directly in front or behind you, and use blinds to reduce glare. If you’re using artificial light, position the screen to reduce reflections and try out different bulb types and colors to see what suits you and your eyes best. You can also try switching from a harsh overhead bulb to floor or desk lamps that provide indirect light.

Adjust Your Screen

Along with making sure the brightness and contrast are appropriate, positioning your computer screen somewhere between 16 to 30 inches away and angling it so you are looking at a slight downward angle makes it much more comfortable for your eyes and avoids strain. You can also try tilting the top of your monitor away from you.

Try playing around with your font type and size to find the most comfortable combination for you — Verdana is perhaps one of the best bets as it’s extremely easy to read, set to at least 10 points to ensure optimum eye-friendly conditions.

And if you have a text-heavy document to read, consider printing at least some of it out to give your eyes a rest from staring at your monitor.

Blink

Speaking of staring, did you know that your natural blinking rate of 18 to 20 times a minute slows significantly when you’re sitting in front of a screen? This is a hard one to prevent, but taking time to stop and blink a little helps lubricate your eyes to prevent them from drying and getting tired, which also helps stop blurred vision.

Remember the 20/20/20 Rule

One easy way to recharge your eyes and prevent eye strain is by using this simple formula. The 20/20/20 rule is simple — take a break every 20 minutes to stare at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You could try using this rule with a short break from your coding as discussed in my recent healthy coding blog post, and do a few push ups while you’re at it!

Relax Your Eyes

At the end of a hard coding session, remember to relax your eyes! Use a warm compress or perhaps try some natural remedies for eye strain — lavender and clove oil has been found to be effective, as have tea bags, cucumbers, and even slices of potato.

Hopefully this has helped you understand how easy (and important) it is to look after your eyes as part of your overall health. Have any other tips for making sure your vision is looked after? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below (tip: click “View Discussion”)!

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About the Author

Emma Stuart

Emma Stuart

Emma Stuart is a UK-based freelancer who mainly writes about engineering, travel, and recruitment. After discovering she loves working with websites and databases, she’s teaching herself to code. You can follow her on Twitter @em_stuart_uk.

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