The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
By JILL BORDEN Staff Writer Eye strain, headaches, gritty eyes and blurry vision are all side effects that may be caused by the reading and working done daily, also called near work. Near work is any form of up close focusing work that is done by your eyes. Working on a computer, reading a book and playing on your smartphone are all examples of near work and it could be causing discomfort when trying to accomplish everyday tasks. “Anything that is within an arm’s length, the lens inside the eye needs to accommodate for focus,” said Dr. Lauryn Baerg, a St. Catharines optometrist, in an interview, “so your eyes have to work harder to do that focusing.” The natural focal point of the human eye lies about 20 feet in front of the face, this is where the term 20/20 vision comes from. “That’s how we measure vision, at a distance of 20 feet,” said Baerg. “Not everyone has a focal point of 20 feet but with their glasses is how we try to make up for that.” This focal point is where your eyes are in a relaxed state. Anything closer than that causes your eyes to work harder to bring your surroundings into focus. “When you’re trying to focus on things up close, the lens inside the eye elongates, instead of being flat when relaxed,” said Baerg. “It bends its shape to bring the focus in.” When doing near work the eye muscles are forced to continuously contract in order to direct focus. Over a long period of time the eye muscles become so overworked that they cannot relax and become stuck in that focus position even after looking away from near work. This may temporarily cause blurry vision that can last up to half an hour and is known as an accommodative spasm. The long-term effects can include permanent short-sightedness. On average, one person will blink 16 times per minute, acting as protection from harsh lighting and as a natural moisturizer for the eyes. While doing near work, blinking limits to about six times per minute because the eyes are working harder to focus.