Playing computer, video games and eyestrain
Teenagers and kids, this article is for you. Of course there are many young adults who should also read this.
I used to love playing computer games even into my adulthood. I was one of those fortunate kids whose parents had foresight and encouraged me to use computers at a very early age. I practically grew up with computers. If I had not chosen to study medicine I would have ended up writing software. Those were the days of the Commodore 64 and the Amiga. A lot of the younger folks will be wondering what I am talking about.
Those were the days when we all wanted to become computer programmers. I remember writing a program that took me five days to complete. The objective was to get a stick guy to walk three steps and throw a ball in the air. The excitement was so intense that I did not sleep for five days.
Apart from using the bathroom and having a snack or two, I was mostly glued to the screen for that period of time. That was before we had the machine programs.
I remember writing 40 pages of code and wondering why the program would not work, just to find out that I had forgotten to place a comma on one of the lines. It took me another two days to find out where I had missed the comma. You must be wondering what all of this has to do with one’s eyes; well imagine staring at a screen almost nonstop for hours on end.
Computers and video games have now become a fixture in our lives. Studies show that most kids and teenagers play games for at least 5-10 hours a week and some play for even much longer. It has now become a multi-billion dollar business. Sales of games, like Mario, Fable III, Grand Theft Auto and the gruesome Black-Ops, among many others, indicate their popularity.
I used to enjoy playing games like Turok, Indiana Jones and Tomb raider with my two sons.
However, because of the long hours in front of the screen, the rapid fire movement and flash graphics, it is easy to develop health problems, such as eye and muscle strain.
Other ailments sometimes include problems of the fingers, wrists, arms and elbows, such as tendonitis, bursitis, and carpel tunnel syndrome, among others.
As eye care practitioners we usually recommend that gamers take a compulsory break every 40 minutes to an hour. Taking a break means getting up from the computer, TV or console and stretching your limbs.
Make an effort to walk around a little bit and look into the distance. This relaxes the eyes and forces blood circulation, allowing more oxygen into the organs of the body.
One of the single most important things to remember is your posture while playing. It is very important to have a comfortable chair. If you can afford it, look for what we call an ergonomic chair. This type of chair supports your neck, back, buttocks, thighs and legs. Make sure your feet are resting on the floor. One can prevent symptoms such as dry eyes, headaches, pain, squinting, focusing problems, excessive blinking and frequent changes in ones prescription if you do it right.
Remember to balance your free time with your work time. Games are for entertainment. Neglecting school or office work is not a good habit to indulge in.
Next week we will discuss 10 tips to protect your eyes while playing games. Enjoy your week