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.