An App Helped Me Realise That I Need Glasses

Until a few weeks ago, I'd never had an eye test. I've been thinking about this more and more recently — after a long day in front of the computer, writing for Gizmodo (or pretending to write for Gizmodo while actually playing Skiing Yeti Mountain on my phone), my eyes hurt.

Glasses image via Shutterstock

It's not dry eyes, but eye strain — from sitting probably too close to a monitor that's probably too large and focusing on text that's probably too small, and then doing that for eight hours straight. In hindsight, this should have been an obvious hint, but it took an app to show me that I could actually benefit from a pair of glasses.

I don't like doctors, and I don't like dentists, so I guess by association I'm a little bit wary of optometrists. I like to think I'm a generally pretty healthy person, but in the last year of working at Gizmodo — and recently turning 27, and realising that I'm not a spritely teenager any more, as much as my deluded brain would like to believe it — I've noticed that the deleterious effects of a long day's work are becoming more serious.

As it turns out, Zeiss's Digital Lens glasses are designed precisely for people like me — people aged between 25 and 45, either who have not had glasses before or who only wear single-vision specs, who use their smartphones regularly or who sit in front of a computer for an extended period of time daily. Writing for Gizmodo, I'm probably at the extreme end of use cases, but I'm also relatively young (within that 25-45 window).

Zeiss got in touch to talk about the concept of Digital Lens, and also to ask whether I'd like to visit an optometrist to get my vision tested and to see whether Digital Lens glasses would help my eyesight. (I should mention they did this apropos of nothing, with no information at all as to whether I actually needed glasses or even whether I already had them.) Okay, I guess. I don't like optometrists, but I thought I really should go and see whether there's a correlation between working in front of a computer and my sore eyes every evening.

Before I went in to the optometrist, I gave Zeiss' Digital Lenses app a go on my iPad — you can get an Android version too, but it's for tablets only as well — and what I found was that yes, I would absolutely benefit from a pair of glasses. The app is meant for optometrists to demonstrate the effect that switching between near and far vision has on your eyes, and the strain that reading digital text close up for extended periods of time can have. The app showed moderate evidence of digital eye strain, but I wrote it off as the kind of thing that app would say anyway.

As it turns out, it was right. The optometrist's tests showed I was slightly farsighted, and that was putting an extra factor of strain on my eyes for the close-up computer work I was doing day in, day out. I'm wearing a pair of Zeiss Digital Lens glasses now, and I have been for the last month — almost every workday. On the days that I remember to put them on, I notice a significant improvement in the soreness (or lack thereof) in my eyes at the end of each day. When I don't wear them, it's back to normal, with the eye strain that that includes.

The specific construction of the Digital Lens includes a large distance-viewing area at the top of the lens, but a very quick transition to near viewing in the lower third; a little more complex and useful for close-up than single-vision glass, but a lot easier to get used to than the linear power increase from far to near of progressive lenses. My distance vision is great — that's not the problem. It's the close-up stuff that is a real strain for my eyes over an extended period of time, and with the combination of a day's typing and an evening's tapping away at my smartphone.

I still haven't gotten used to wearing glasses, and I don't like to use them when I'm not in the office, but they genuinely do help. They'd help if I used them while I was walking and looking at my smartphone, too, looking down at it through that lower near-vision section. But even if it's just for that workday, those few hours of heavy-duty close-up vision, I can justify that and I can see the improvement that they're making on my eyes.

Employee workplace health and safety is a big thing at Gizmodo. I've come to the realisation, though, that I haven't really been paying much attention to my own personal comfort, and having glasses have made a genuine difference to using a computer or a smartphone for such a large proportion of my day. The difference to me isn't quantifiable, in the way that I can quantify the difference between a laptop with four hours' battery life and one with eight. But at the end of a long day, not having a headache and sore eyes — not so much, at least — is a big improvement.

Even if nothing else, I'd recommend you give the Digital Lens app a go, or talk to an optometrist, and see whether you notice a difference. I didn't think I need glasses, then I tried the app, then I thought about it, and I realised that my eyes have been trying to tell me something for quite a while now.

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