All occupations have their risks. They may be obvious or insidious, and it’s often the latter that gets the least attention. “At Eyes in Design, we deal with patients facing a variety of workplace hazards that can affect their vision, and knowing what they are is the first step towards dealing with them effectively,” says Australian behavioural optometrist Jacqueline Gattegno.
Jobs Requiring Near Work and Screen Time
It’s long been believed that jobs requiring very detailed, fine work or close-up work can adversely affect the eyes. However, it’s more a case of eye-strain than vision loss. Nevertheless, eye strain and its consequences are uncomfortable enough to have a very negative impact on one’s work and daily life, so it should certainly be classed as an occupational hazard.
“Eye strain is a real problem for people who do a lot of near work and computer-based work. There are studies that suggest that prolonged screen time could cause permanent damage to eyes. However, the generally accepted view is that digital eye strain is like other forms of eye strain: it can cause symptoms like blurry vision or even double vision, but once the strain is relieved, the symptoms go away,” says Jaqueline. “At Eyes in Design, eye exercises, computer glasses that reduce the effects of blue light, or both are suggested. It’s also worth looking at workplace ergonomics and simple ways in which workers can reduce the risk of straining their eyes.”
Jobs in Which Foreign Objects or Chemicals can Injure Eyes
For those who work in an environment where there’s flying debris, no matter how small, eye protection is a must. “Foreign bodies in the eye can lead to corneal abrasions, even when they are quite small,” says Jacqueline. “Chemicals can be even more dangerous. The bottom line is that workplace health and safety protocols should indicate which jobs require eye protection, and when they do, compliance is key.”
“You may want to visit an optometrist and find out about industrial safety glasses. They don’t replace protective eyewear, but they don’t break as easily on impact, and some designs allow for the addition of side-shields that allow the glasses to be used as protective eyewear for certain tasks.”
Working outdoors in the sunshine might sound like a pleasant prospect, but it has a few downsides, and the sun itself is one of them. The harmful effects of UV light can cause or contribute to a range of eye problems ranging from corneal sunburn to cataracts and macular degeneration. “If you work outdoors, you should wear polarised sunglasses or choose glasses with photosensitive lenses that darken in sunlight,” says Jaqueline. “There is a very real risk of permanent damage to the eyes from excessive sun exposure, and they need protection.”
Shift Work or Sleep Deprivation
The mental and physical demands of a job that makes inroads into a person’s sleep patterns are many, and their eye health will suffer too. Dry eyes are common in those who don’t sleep enough, but that’s probably the least of their concerns. “Insufficient sleep has been linked to glaucoma which can cause total vision loss,” says Jacqueline. “Dry eyes may sound more uncomfortable than vision-threatening, but dry eyes are also more susceptible to infections. It’s important for your overall health to get enough sleep, and if you’re not able to sleep properly, you need to look for solutions to rectify that.”
Risk is Part of Life, but Risk Mitigation Should be Too
Risk is an ever-present part of life and risk avoidance isn’t always possible. However, risk mitigation is almost always possible, and safeguarding one’s vision should be given priority. “If you’re concerned about the way in which your work affects your vision, visit a behavioural optometrist who will not only look at how well you can see, but also the visual demands of your job,” Jacqueline concludes.
For more information on eye injuries and impairments, and how they can be treated, or to make an appointment for a regular eye check, visit the Smart Vision website: Optometrists Sydney: Optometry Services For Children and Adults | Smart Vision; for specific information about Myopia treatment and prevention visit Myopia Prevention: Solutions, Control And Treatment In Sydney; and for detailed information about Myopia Treatment visit Orthokeratology In Sydney: The Non Surgical Alternative.
To book an appointment for a thorough eye check-up, click here or Call the Bondi clinic on (02) 9365 5047 or the Mosman clinic on (02) 9969 1600.