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My eyes are killing me (tired eyes) what can I do?
Thread poster: Arturo Villasenor Garcia

Arturo Villasenor Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 18, 2013

Lately my eyes have been getting extremely tired when translating. I'm working at least 8 hours a day in my laptop and my eyes feel heavy, tired and my vision becomes blurry, I don't really have problems with my reading eyesight, only when looking at objects from the distance but I can still drive without glasses.

What can I do to reduce the amount of tiredness on my eyes? I wonder if there are special glasses for translators that really work, and where can I buy them, a specific brand or anything you recommend. Please.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You said it yourself... Apr 18, 2013

Working on a laptop is far from ideal. The screen is small, the usual position of a laptop on the desk is not ergonomic at all, and the whole concept of a laptop is not that of continuous work. What you need is a proper monitor (and a proper keyboard, and a mouse).

I would recommend that you buy a larger screen which you can connect to your laptop and can be placed at an appropriate height on your desk. Screens are really cheap these days, so you can for instance buy a 22-inch monitor from a good brand for just 150 bucks. Certainly worth the investment.

The screen should be placed at such a height that, when looking in a straight line while seated correctly, your eyes are looking at the upper border of the monitor.

If you work on your laptop continuously, I would also recommend to get a full-sized keyboard and a mouse. If the keyboard can be a split keyboard, it would be even better because this way you would better protect your wrists too.


Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:56
English to Hindi
+ ...
Some simple things you can do... Apr 18, 2013

The eyes are controlled by muscles. There are separate muscles for close focussing and distant focussing. When you continuously focus on the screen, you are keeping your close focussing muscles taut and like all muscles they run out of energy and tire.

After every ten minutes of work on the computer, shift your gaze to some distant object so that the close focussing muscles can relax and regain energy. Do this for five minutes. An alternative is to close your eyes for five minutes.

After every half hour wash your eyes with cold water to freshen them.

Get enough sleep and watch your diet. You should eat a lot of leafy stuff and things like carrots, egg yolk, fish and other food that are rich in Vitamin B. They are needed for a healthy eye.

As a precaution, visit an eye doctor and get your eyes examined. There could be something wrong with them. I spent equally long hours on the computer and have never faced any such problems.


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A walk around the block Apr 18, 2013

I fully agree with everything said with the colleague. Also, make sure that you stop every couple of hours and have a 10-minute walk around your part of town. A brisk walk around the block will do lots of good, not only to your eyes.


564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Danish to English
+ ...
Anti-glare glasses Apr 18, 2013

You can get glasses that reduce the damage of the glare from your computer screen. I got mine from my optician as I need glasses, anyway. Not sure if you can get such glasses without a prescription.

However, the same optician warned me that our eyes are not really meant to stare at computer screens many hours a day. Her recommendation was this: max. 2 hours!! Well...

Even so, like you, I do at times suffer from very tired eyes, especially if I do a lot of proofreading on the screen (I have exactly the set-up that Tomás suggests, but it does not solve the problem fully). I think I simply forget to blink a lot of the time. Eye drops relieve the itchiness a bit, but the real solution must be to vary the work we do on screen... and follow the other advice given here.


Ana Malovrh  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Member (2010)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
special glasses exist Apr 18, 2013

Hi Arturo,

you should consider a bigger screen as the colleagues suggest, but there is one more thing I found extremely useful.

I also bought the gunnar glasses and they are fabulous.

They were designed for gamers at first, but these people have the same problem with stairing at the screen for long hours as we do.

One can instantly feel the relief when looking at the screen through these glasses. They reduce muscle strain of the eyes and help taking control over the so called "computer vision syndrome".

Plus, I found the pomodoro technique quite useful. 25 minutes working followed by 5 minutes break for stretching and getting away from computer.


Maria Popova  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:26
Member (2011)
German to Bulgarian
+ ...
Rest + Exercise Apr 18, 2013

Take some rest. Certain yoga eye exercises can also help a lot:


Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
+ ...
You might find helpful ideas here also: Apr 18, 2013


KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
Russian to German
+ ...
See an eye specialist Apr 18, 2013

See an eye specialist and have your eyes examined. Even if you think that your eyesight is alright, the tiredness and blurry vision might indicate that you need (stronger) glasses.


Bart Van Audenhove (X)
Local time: 03:26
French to Dutch
+ ...
Rest, exercises - and my experience with Gunnar glasses Apr 18, 2013

I find regular rest (for the eyes every 20 minutes at least half a minute or so, and also in general every night) indispensable and finally the only true remedy. My wife swears by completely lowering the brightness setting of her screen, but for me it doesn't really work. I do lower it substantially, to about 20%, which is better than full brightness, but I still get burning, aching eyes.

About Gunnar glasses, I bought a pair, tested it, and initially felt they "did something", but eventually I sold them again. For me they didn't really make a difference in the long run. They also zoom in slightly but noticeably, which gave me a weird kind of headache when taking them off after using them for some time. Experiences with Gunnar glasses are very different from one person to another, so it might be worthwile testing them anyway.

What also helps is some of the following eye exercises regularly: every 20 minutes or so do a selection of these:
- focus on something close for a second, then far (as far as possible, min. 20 feet) a few seconds, to loosen the eye muscles (they strain when looking close and rest when looking at the horizon or sky); repeat this several times
- looking extremely right, left, up, down and in circles, holding the head still of course
- letting your eyes rest glancing around, leisurely, at the things in your office, without really looking at them (sounds a bit weird but you'll know what I mean when you try it). Like if you were daydreaming for ten or fifteen seconds or so...
- cupping your eyes with your palms, looking into the dark (make sure you don't obstruct your breathing), for 30 seconds or so
- doing a full body stretch and maybe loosen neck and shoulder muscles a bit every hour or so, to make the blood flow again

But a real remedy doesn't exist I'm afraid, not for me at least, I suffer from sore eyes too... Which doesn't mean you can't do certain things to ease the problem which do make a real difference...


Tony M
Local time: 03:26
French to English
+ ...
Same problem here Apr 18, 2013

I was having exactly the same problem as you a few years back (and still do, occasionally). I got very worried about my ability to carry on working, and that stress only added to the problem. In addition to the 'tired eyes' and blurry vision, I was also getting severe headaches.

I did reorganize my work station, and as the years have gone by, have progressed from a 15" to a 19" and now 21" monitor. You may also find that adjusting the screen brightness and/or ambient lighting may help to avoid squinting and generally making it hard for your eyes.

I also went to see my ophthalmologist, who told me I've reached the age where my eyes are no longer able to 'accommodate' properly to near and far distances. I have always been extremely short-sighted, with a severe imbalance between my two eyes, and have always worn glasses. But up till now, with correction, my eyes have been able to accommodate naturally from near to far.

She also sent me to see an orthoptist, who identified that my eyes were no longer converging properly — so part of the blurriness was simply that my eyes weren't focusing quite together. He gave me around 20 sessions of 'physiotherapy' for my eyes, which helped a great deal, making the convergence muscles work better.

I had to accept that I was going to need different glasses for reading and distance — and I didn't think I would be able to cope with bi- or vari-focals.

In the end, by working with her and my dispensing optician, we arrived at a solution which has been working fine for me for over 5 years now.

I now have contact lenses, which correct my vision for reading, ONLY I had them calculated for a reading distance of 50 cm (instead of the usual 30 cm) — this was equivalent to the distance to my computer screen, and means that my vision is pin-sharp at that distance. I just have to occasionally use simple magnifying glasses for reading tiny print like ingredients on bottles etc.

I then had distance glasses made to add the extra correction I need for driving.

The huge advantages are that I can go about my normal daily life without glasses at all, and only need the distance glasses (which I can also now have as sunglasses) for driving, the cinema, and such. More importantly, the contacts correct for the difference between my eyes, meaning that the supplementary correction is then the same for both.

I don't wear my contacts all the time, and the various exercises I have done for me eyes mean that even using my ordinary glasses, I am coping better than before.

I do find, though, that about 45 mins to an hour is as long as I ought to work in one stretch, and then I try and have a 15 min break; just means I have to organize my other chores in a different pattern, but works OK for me.

[Edited at 2013-04-18 08:01 GMT]


Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:26
English to German
+ ...
Maybe worth a try: Apr 18, 2013



José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:26
English to Portuguese
+ ...
An eye doctor explained it to me Apr 18, 2013

That eye doctor's office is only a block away from what was the head office of a large bank (which was bought by another one). So she had hundreds of bank employees - whose nose is pointed at a computer screen for most of the business hours - all visiting her with complaints similar to yours.

Our eyeballs move all the time, so they need lubrication (tears). Our brain is programmed to make us wink automatically from time to time, as needed, so our eyelids spread that lubricant over the exposed area of our eyeballs.

However the act of clicking a mouse fools us into sending a fake "winked already" message to our brain, so we start missing many winks, and our eyes get dry. When we eventually wink, there is not enough lubricant left, so our eyelids actually rub against our eyeballs, and that friction causes eye irritation.

The solution for people who work many hours in a row in front of a computer screen is to train themselves to wink deliberately more often than the brain would do on its own. Simple as that!

Of course, this doesn't preclude other possible causes, some of which may be forcing your eyes when:
1. you need prescription glasses different from those you are using;
2. there is a striking imbalance between the brightness of the screen itself and its surrounding area;
3. the surrounding climate/atmosphere dryness requires compensation; or
4. last but not least, you have some other eyesight problem (see an eye doctor at least once a year).

I keep the computer monitor screen at 90 cm (36") from my eyes. So I have specific "computer glasses" for exactly that distance (which I gave the optometrist upon requesting them).

I had an interesting experience with monitors. Like everyone else, I used a 14" CRT monitor for many years; it was the only size widely available then. When larger ones came up, I tried for weeks a 15", and later a 21". At that time I was doing a lot of DTP work which, differently from translation, required my focus to go everywhere on the screen all the time. While using the 21" screen (same distance), my eyes were OK, but my neck got sore after a few hours.

Bottom line is that for the past few years I've been happily using a 19" 4:3 flat screen monitor, which I consider perfect for MY eyesight, MY distance, MY setting. It could be worthwhile to check yours. While you are constrained to the notebook's monitor, it is usually possible to plug an external one and have it located at your most frequent working spot.

Several causes for dry eyes are divided in three groups on [erl=]this page[/url]. Maybe you'll find something useful on that site.

In the early days of the microcomputer era, I asked (another) eye doctor whether it was true that working on a computer for many consecutive hours every day impairs vision. He said, "I am still getting familiar with computers, however my personal opinion from what I've seen so far is that, by the time they start impairing your vision, your brain will be compromised beyond salvage already."icon_eek.gif


Yuri Radcev  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:26
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
a decent screen is crucial Apr 18, 2013

8 hours a day in front of an ordinary laptop - no surprise your eyes are crying "Help"!
there are two basic ways of reacting: reducing your workload, and improving your work environment. the former is up to you, but the latter is a must. a modest 24' Full HD monitor is not that expansive to leave your family hungry).


NataliaAnne  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:26
Portuguese to English
Get your eyes checked! Apr 18, 2013

KKastenhuber wrote:

See an eye specialist and have your eyes examined. Even if you think that your eyesight is alright, the tiredness and blurry vision might indicate that you need (stronger) glasses.

I really recommend this. Within only a few months of becoming a full-time translator, I needed glasses! The ophthalmologist said that I had never noticed any problems before because my work was really varied (I mixed translation with teaching amongst other things and was constantly running around and switching from one to another). When I started working in front of a computer all day long, problems emerged such as headaches and kind of feeling vague and dizzy. Wearing glasses now helps a lot but it’s worth remembering that working at a computer all day impacts more than just the eyes. Static postures do nasty things to the body, so taking regular breaks is essential for this reason and will also help your vision.

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