[Updated 16 Feb 2011]
I'm posting this both as an update on my recent eye-strain problem, and also vindication of the critical thinking method I've been advocating, which involves GAINING SIGNIFICANT MASTERY over any subject which one needs to understand. We need to read widely, consult as much as is reasonable, and with luck, we will find the solution.
In mid-October 2010 I came down with pretty severe eye strain. Working at a frentic pace for around 12 hours (not including breaks) on the computer each day, plus reading and writing on the bus to and fro from work, and reading books at the bedside (apart from newspapers and magazines), I precipitated a most severe form of eye strain.
I didn't realise I had eye-strain till a few days after initial symptoms had started. For days there was extensive soreness and heaviness in the eye - in my frontal lobe area, almost as if my brain was hurting. It hurt to look at the computer screen (or even a book) for more than a few minutes without experiencing severe aggravation of the symptoms. The eyes hurt with a burning and painful sensation, and were swollen and puffy.
I immediately tried to determine (localise) the source of the pain. It was hard, but there was one crucial symptom: when I widened the eyes and then tried to relax them, terrible fatigue and soreness set in. And there was no getting away from this pain, whether in the morning or night. Incessant. One day it became so bad that I almost felt nauseated and could not stand. The onset and severity was rather quick and abrupt.
An extensive search of the internet and many academic journal articles over the past four months, I've discounted the initial hypothesis of RSI.
Medical experts' opinion
a) Optometrist: Noticed dryness in the eyes and gave me artificial tears but that did NOT solve the problem. Headaches were still very bad. That, however, is most likely the ROOT CAUSE of my problem.
b) General Practitioner 1: He suggested I try Metsal over my eyelids - very small quantity, and away from the eye. It started giving some relief.
c) General Practitioner 1: No solution offered. Referred to GP.
CURRENT STATE OF PLAY:
My analysis and experience shows that this is a dry eye problem, with significant reduction of tears. The detailed ongoing analysis of this issue is provided below:
INITIAL ANALYSIS – NO LONGER RELEVANT IN MY CASE – PLEASE IGNORE!
This analysis was in relation to RSI of the eye – which is quite possible but at the moment I'm discounting it in my case.
STEP 1: What muscles could possibly be affected?
The first step in my analysis was asking: which eye muscles can get affected? I learnt that there are three main areas where eyes have muscles:
i) External (eyelids)
ii) Internal (ciliary)
iii) Muscles to move the eye (outside the eyeball) [Click image to make it a bit larger - for best results, see a good book on anatomy]
The eye has over a dozen important muscles. In each of these case static load is the key problem. If a particular position is held for a long time, the muscle will become tired. Lactic acid will build up. This acid must be moved out quickly thorugh the bloodstream, else it will eat away/damage the muscle cells. The rubbery "goo" created by the acid makes the muscle fibres sticky and further clogs their movement – causing severe burning/pain. This is what happened to my upper body and arms with RSI. This is what happened to one or more of my muscles of the eye. The question was which.
STEP 2: Which muscles have the greatest likelihood of being affected?
a) RULING OUT THE CILIARY BODY:
The ciliary body or ciliary muscle is alleged on some internet websites to be the key muscle affected by computer work. I'm not sure if that is the case. Damage to the cililary body would mean that eye accommodation (ability to focus) would be lost. Blurring or images or double vision would result. This did not happen in my case, and I wonder if such would be the first consequence of computer work, for it would require CONSTANT focus on a single place, but even while working on the computer the eye moves from one part of the screen to the other and often re-focuses. In any event, I had an eye test scheduled a week after this problem struck me and the optomerist found that my eyes are fine from the inside. The focal acuity is fine. I can see well better than 20/20 with corrective glasses. This muscle, if affected by RSI can virtually never be cured. It is very important therefore to undertake relevant preventative exercises (more on that later).
b) POSSIBLE EFFECT ON EYEBALL MUSCLES:
I'm not sure whether my eyeball muscles have got affected yet. Perhaps a bit. Eye movement slow down while looking at the computer and hence I'd expect some harm to have been caused to these muscles. However, the probability of this harm is, in my view, but I'm not sure how good is blood circulation of these eyeball muscles. Best to be very safe and exercise the eyes (more later). Just like the ciliary body, if these muscles get affected there is NO WAY to masage them. I have wrked out the following "cure" for these internal muscles, but I'm not sure if it is going to be effective if these muscles get seriously affected ;
- head stand (sirsasana) to increase blood flow (I now do this every day for the past few days – and would need to continue further. Note that those with high blood pressure should NOT do this exercise.
- careful eye movements to stretch and make these eyeball muscles more mobile (more later).
c) DEFINITE EFFECT ON UPPER EYELID:
A careful examination of the eyelid anatomy shows that it is the upper eyelid that moves, the lower generally moving very mildly. While staring at a computer, one is liable to move the upper eyelid up for long periods of time, and reduce blinking significantly, which causes further static strain. There are two muscles that hold the upper lid up the biggest the levator and a smaller superior tarsal muscle (Mueller's muscle). Muellers muscle is very susceptIble to sleep, fatigue, illness. In addition, the lachrymal gland (tear gland) gets affected, being located just to one corner of the upper eyelid. The constant pressure imposed by the static upper eyelid means that the lachrymal gland can't secrete tears as smoothly as it was earlier able to. That leads to dry eyes.
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