It Seems I Am Ruining My Eyes

My original computer glasses

I got computer glasses for the first time in April of 2012. At the time I didn’t need reading glasses for print, but I knew the day would come fairly soon. Doctor Mariam told me I’d know when I needed a new prescription for glasses, and she was right, but I put off going back to get  a new eye exam. After a while I stopped wearing the glasses because it seemed I could see equally well (or badly) with or without them.

But in the last few months I also noticed something even more worrying than the increased frequency of migraines that had driven me to get my eyes tested in the first place: it was no longer as easy to read street signs as it had been. Driving at night was getting to be more difficult.

Losing your ability to focus up close is a natural part of getting older. It happens to pretty much everyone, though I’ve heard there are eye exercises you can do to prevent it. It is not normal for your distance vision to deteriorate. (Night vision is something else: everyone needs more light to see as they get older.) All this computer work seems to be doing me no good at all. And not wearing the glasses when they stopped working as well turns out to have been a Really Bad Idea.

As a child, I had perfect long-range vision. But by the time Dr. Mariam tested me the first time, my distance vision was no longer perfect, though it was not bad enough to require glasses. This time, I couldn’t read those darned letters at all. When she put the lens in front of my eyes, it was miraculous.

Because I use a laptop, I can get away with one pair of glasses for reading both print and screen, and they can even re-use my old frames, which I liked. But I need two pairs of glasses for driving: sunglasses for daytime and clear glasses for nighttime. “Always wear sunglasses,” Dr. Miriam said to me. “Your pupils are huge.”

She’d just dilated them, of course, but that’s true of everyone she examines, so I presume this has to do with my Northern European, blue-eyed ancestry and goes along with my need to keep my skin covered up in the sun. I normally do wear sunglasses when outdoors, especially here in Oakley where it is always sunny, but I haven’t had to concern myself with prescription sunglasses before.

Costco does not provide red mirrored coatings for its lenses, either: the choices were a brown tint and a gray tint. The brown looked too unnaturally red, so I picked the gray ones. The point is not really to look cool, but to avoid traffic accidents. And to avoid eyestrain. Apart from my newly-acquired habit of walking, I spend almost all of my time working at the computer, reading, or driving. So my eyes have been overworked almost all day, every day, for approximately the past year.

Back when I was in graduate school, we heard stories about how our nineteenth-century predecessors made themselves blind reading Greek late into the night by inadequate candle- and lamp-light. (We were expected to emulate their diligence, if not necessarily their self-destructiveness. Greek textbooks were expensive enough printed in ink; I hate to think what they would cost in Braille.)

Yet I don’t really think I ever believed that it was possible to make oneself blind that way, even though I’ve always insisted on having a lot of light to read. Sometimes I can be an idiot. Time to take eyestrain seriously, install that f.lux app, and stay on top of the eye exams.

WordPress fangirl, ghostwriter, linguistic alchemist, podcast consultant, and accidental vapor advocate. Married with 2 cats.


  1. All these electronic devices are having long term effects not only on our expectations, attention span and communications, but our vision as well. The guidelines from the turn of this C. E. recommend: to focus your eyes at least 20 ft away every 20 min. to reduce eye strain and to keep from losing your distance vision.

    These days it’s not just the 2D computer screens (glad we moved on from CRT’s!) but the increased dependence on handheld gizmos, which favors cold “blue light” rather than warm yellow spectrum closer to natural light.

  2. Most people don’t know that by doing so much close work and mostly on a computer will slowly reduce your ability to see things at a distance. In other words your your beautiful blue eyes have become nearsighted as well as being farsighted which you already knew you were. The advice given by “Kathologist” was correct about making a point to look away from your screen and focus your eyes on something in the distance every 20 minutes to and hour. Also nearly everyone gets so into their work that they forget to blink as much as they should. By not blinking your eyes are exposed to to much air and they tend to dry out, you always want your eyes to be lubricated and blinking does that.
    But I am curious why your wearing 2 pairs of glasses (not counting your prescription sunglasses) instead of just getting progressives (bifocals)? I am sure your glasses for distance are probably very weak and you likely mainly only wear them for driving, sporting events and concerts as well, so you don’t wear them all the time. But you could do the same with progressives but the difference would be that you would have perfect vision for both distance and close up all the time. Now if your working on your computer and look around everything is blurry through your reading glasses. And if you happen to have your glasses on for distance now reading small print with them is much harder to see. So your the perfect person to be wearing a beautiful pair of progressive glasses. Also I am sure it can’t be much fun carrying 3 pairs of glasses all the time.
    Yes I am a retired optician if your wondering.

    1. The doctor suggested bifocals and I was STUPID and didn’t get them. It’s true that I don’t wear the distance glasses except when driving, and I store the tinted ones in the car. When it comes time for a new prescription, I will definitely get progressive lenses, though I hear they can be difficult to adjust to at first. I think it would be worth the adjustment time, but it’s not worth handing over the cash for new glasses right now.

      I am not actually sure that I used to be farsighted, because both my distance vision and my close vision were quite sharp when I was younger. In 1998 when I had a thorough eye exam (required to renew my driving license from overseas) I had no need for any kind of corrective lenses. It’s only since about 2012 that I’ve needed computer glasses–at first JUST for the computer–and then this past year I found road signs harder to read, as well as print.

      1. If your doctor suggested bifocals at your last eye exam then he / she knows that your eyes would benefit by having and add (the bottom segment of bifocals used for reading) in your glasses. Sallie you weren’t stupid by not getting bifocals when it was suggested. I think for many the word “bifocal” often times is very scary because everyone thinks that bifocals are for older people. That at one time was true, but now they have found in part because of the stress we all put on our eyes with I-Phones and other devices and texting I am sure is having a huge effect on many young peoples eye now. In the past few years more and more early 20 age people are wearing bifocals. For many years bifocals meant glasses with the noticeable line across the lenses which everyone could clearly see and know that they were bifocals, but now with no-line bifocals and progressives no one ever needs to know that your wearing bifocals.
        No of course I didn’t mean that you needed to run out now and get progressives but most likely you will be returning for an annual eye exam in or around July. That might be the right time to make the switch. It’s possible you may need a slight increase in your glasses anyway by then. I think your distance vision won’t change much but it could be enough that you may need to start wearing your glasses more often.
        I will provide you with one warning for when you do get your progressives. Be extremely careful going up or down steps, and you may want to hold off wearing any high heels until you get adjusted to your glasses. I’m sure this may sound funny but you would be shocked at how many have taken nasty falls because they misjudged the steps. Just try and remember not to look down while on steps or curbs.

      2. Oh and I forgot to mention that staying with just single vision sunglasses is all you need. I’m pretty sure you don’t need your glasses to see the gauges on your car so it would be a waste of money to get bifocal sunglasses. You might be able to save some money if your distance prescription doesn’t change too much. Your doctor can tell you if your current sunglasses are still okay to wear.

  3. It has been a while since we last communicated, so I have to admit to being curious about how your eyesight is these days? Did you make the switch to progressives? If so how are they working out for you with your computer work as well as your everyday life such as driving? I’m sure at first getting used to finding the correct areas of your glasses that gave you perfect vision wasn’t easy. But the more you wore your glasses the easier finding those places became. I have a feeling once you adjusted to your glasses you were wearing your glasses more often if not full time. Generally once you start wearing bifocals (progressives) your glasses are usually on from the time you wake up until you go back to bed.

    1. Hi, Jim. Haven’t switched to progressives yet. Though it can be inconvenient swapping glasses around, I’m not likely to change until I need a new prescription. Too many other priorities.

      1. Thanks for the update. I’m sure the switching is inconvenient but on the good side of things apparently your eyesight must not have changed much if at all since you last got glasses and that’s a good thing. Honestly i don’t expect your eyes to change much as far as being nearsighted, but you may need an increase in your close vision next time. Do you wear your distance glasses full time or only when you feel that you need them? If you’re wearing your distance glasses full time then i’m sure it is an inconvenience to be taking off one pair of glasses to put on another pair of glasses and then back again. But I do understand priorities.

          1. Hi Sallie, I know it has only been 2 months since we chatted but I had a minute so I thought I check to see how you’re doing? Are you still mostly only wearing your distance glasses for driving? I would think your eyes would benefit if you wore your glasses for other things such as watching TV, going to concerts, sporting events and really anything you need to see at a distance? But your at least wearing them for driving which is important for safety reasons. And I assume you wear your other glasses when your doing closework. Are your glasses still giving you good vision for both? I still hope you’re able to get progressives in the near future. It would be so much easier if you were able to just put your glasses on when you get up and keep them on all day. That way you will always have good distance vision as well as good near vision. Have a great day.

          2. So far I’m okay. No budget for new glasses right now. You do realize it’s kind of creepy for a complete stranger to be pestering me about this all the time?

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