In today's digital world, at least in the urban population, computer usage is a part of daily life. Most of us have experienced some kind of discomfort related to computer use. Of the many symptoms, "headache" is the most commonly reported problem in my clinic among the individuals aged between 20 to 45 years. So, are all the headaches related to the eyes and computer usage?? What do you need to know about these headaches??
For a doctor to diagnose why one has a headache may be a difficult task in the first go. Most often when I am asked such direct questions, I do not have a definite reply. As a doctor I am specialized to treat the body, but not the mind and spirit.
Many of us have a very complex mental/physical state in between 20 to 45 years of our life. We face a lot of challenges. Hence, it may be easy to conclude: that not all the headaches are directly related to eyes and computer usage alone.
So how do you decide when to go to an ophthalmologist and what to expect??
- It is best to see an eye specialist at least once before you join a job which involves computer usage and every year after that. In your routine consultation your doctor will check for any refractive error you have, general condition of your eyes, your eye pressure, and the optic nerve and retina status. For a full check-up it may take up to 60-90 minutes and after a dilated retinal evaluation your vision may be blurred for 4-5 hours. So do not ride or drive yourself if you need a full check-up. Best to go with a friend/spouse who can drive you back.
- A great proportion of patients do have uncorrected refractive errors which can definitely give headaches.
- Especially uncorrected plus (+) and cylindrical (axis) powers can cause more discomfort.
- Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) can present in a lot of ways (like - red rimmed eyes, burning, irritation, neck pain, fatigue after long working hours, sleepy eyes, swollen lids, headaches etc.) and is a condition which can affect an individual even if one does not have a refractive error. How to avoid few of these symptoms would be a separate article altogether.
- It is important to wear your spectacles all the time if your doctor has advised, even if you are not working with computers. Infrequent and inadequate wear can also cause headaches.
- Individuals in their 40s and above may require a progressive spectacle for focusing near distances like reading and computer work.
- Also some of the individuals may do well with a plane spectacle without power with anti-reflective coating (ARC) and UV protection. Though not to expect a magic out of it and probably it may sometimes be a psychological feeling of well being.
- Minor changes in refraction prescription may not be a certain reason for severe headaches but may sometimes cause a dropped vision or discomfort. Your doctor will be the best judge to decide if you need to change your present spectacle or not in such situations.
- I would also advise not to spend any leisure time in front of computers, TVs, iPad/Mobiles until unless necessary or important.
Above mentioned reasons may be the cause of headaches but there are many more reasons apart from your eyes and the computer usage which can cause frequent headaches, severe ones, lasting for days together, hammering your head, one sided ones, and bringing down your quality of life. With the changing lifestyle, there are a lot of compromises we do. There are a few things we can do to make these type of headaches trouble you less frequently and then there are some situations which we cannot change.
Here are a few tips and must do things to make yourself feel better:
- "Stress" is the most important cause of such headaches. Meditation is definitely known to improve the mental health over time. The effects are not immediate but patience and sincere practice will make a lot of difference.
- Importance of exercise, ideal body weight, good dietary habits, and healthy life style is needless to mention.
- Definitely a big "NO" to smoking and alcoholism.
- Plan your next day: be prepared. Be at least 15 minutes early to everything you have planned. Do not rush and stress yourself at the last minute.
- A large proportion of patients do not have breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Hypoglycemia not only causes headaches but also makes a person more irritable. It is advised to have more number of meals/snacks a day than just having 3 heavy meals. Divide the same quantity of food into 6 times. Also you can have fruits / juice packs / dry fruits / biscuits in your bag which can be very handy at times when you are getting late for your lunch or to satisfy your evening hunger.
- Unhappy work environment, travel time, long working hours, family related tensions, unhappy relationships, lack of sleep / sleep disorders, personality problems are also known to cause headaches and mental fatigue. In such situations you are the best judge to yourself. Decide and stick to what makes you happy and comfortable.
- Get a thorough check-up with your family physician to rule out any diseases like diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies etc.
- If headache still continues to trouble you, do not hesitate to take a neurologists opinion right away. Rarely but not uncommon, one can have headache due to some seriously worrying medical reasons too.
Remember "MNOPQ" for headaches
- M: Meditation improves your mental health
- N: Nutrition serves the right fuel
- O: Opinion from an ophthalmologist and neurologist will rule out any medical issues
- P: Physical fitness and good planning will push you to do your best
- Q: Quality of life improvements will give you happiness
To conclude: Look at yourself as a whole.
To be headache free is largely your own responsibility when you have a busy life. Do not assume you are a patient every time when you get a headache who is yet again ready to accept a medical treatment. Have trust in your doctor who is doing his/her best to get you out of your medical problems but also remember doctors are not magicians. Sometimes you have to do the magic yourself.