Many years ago, when I was twenty-seven years old, I made an appointment with the eye doctor. “So,” he asked me, “what brings you in today?”
“Well,” I said, “I’m getting older. I thought I might need glasses now.” I was sort of excited by the prospect. I could get a pair of fashionably-sexy librarian glasses and perhaps I’d finally feel like an adult.
“Hmm.” The doctor regarded me strangely. “Are you having trouble seeing?”
“No. But sometimes my eyes hurt and they get red and bloodshot.”
“Well. Let’s take a look.” He sat me in the chair and tested my vision, which included putting stinging orange drops of liquid into my eyes. As it turned out, I had twenty-fifteen vision: better than perfect.
“There’s nothing wrong with your eyes,” he said.
“Then why do they burn and get bloodshot?” I asked.
“Well, do you spend a lot of time on the computer?”
“Do you read a lot?”
“There’s your answer.”
He went on to explain that when we concentrate on something, we tend to blink less. This means when I concentrate on what I’m reading or writing, I’m not flushing my eyes often enough with a cooling blink, which causes them to get dry and burny and bloodshot.
“So what should I do?” I asked. “Would glasses help?” (I was still holding onto the glasses fantasy.)
“Try blinking more,” he suggested.
“Great. Thanks.” I paid for my visit and headed to my car with that prescription.
That was six years ago, and the problem is back with a vengeance. I spend my mornings writing — on my computer, of course — and then I head to work with eyes so bloodshot that my students probably think I’m smoking a blunt in the parking lot before coming in.
Much of my day at work is spent on the computer, so by the time I get home at night, my eyes are often burning so badly I have trouble reading. All I want to do is close my eyes.
“I’m not tired,” I explain to my fiance when he mocks me for going to bed at nine-thirty. “But my eyes hurt so bad.”
Obviously, I have not been blinking enough.
Part of the problem, too, is that it’s so dry here in Minneapolis. So, so dry. My hands crack and bleed no matter how much lotion I rub into them. The static is so bad that my hair crackles with electricity, and I go to the bathroom in the dark because I’m afraid to flip the light switch and get shocked. So no wonder my eyes are getting dry!
I know it’s probably not good for my eyes that I am constantly on my computer, or reading, or reading something on my computer. But what else can I do? I’m a writer. My life is reading and writing. Is it the fate of writers to go around with bloodshot, burning eyes? I’d rather not.
So, here are my SOLUTIONS FOR MY BURNING EYES:
1. Remind myself to blink. Sounds dumb, but I think it helps.
2. Take breaks from the computer to stretch, take a quick walk, do something that doesn’t involve screens or pages. (This is good for the rest of my body in addition to my eyes.)
3. Get a humidifier for the apartment and eye drops for my eyes.
I hope these things help because I like my daily routine. I like writing in the morning and reading at night. But I’d like to do these activities with eyes that are healthy and full of moisture. Wish me luck! And let me know if you have any suggestions of your own.