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Home » Resources » Health » When It Comes to Artistic Vision, Don’t Be Shortsighted

When It Comes to Artistic Vision, Don’t Be Shortsighted


Musicians are susceptible to any number of performance-related injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, tinnitus, neck, back, and joint pain. But let’s face it, the eyes and ears do the heavy lifting in music performance. As a focus of health and wellness, though, the senses—especially vision—are often taken for granted.

Focusing on small notes on a page for long periods of time, frequent reading with inadequate light, dry eyes, and playing loud and high-pitched notes on wind instruments—which can double eye pressure—all put a musician’s eyes at risk for strain and injury. The eyes are not meant to repeatedly scan small text, like musical notes, for an extended period of time. Doing so overworks the eye muscles to the point where they can spasm, causing vision to blur. Eye strain can sometimes lead to ocular migraines.

A simple way to relieve stress and to lubricate the eyes is to blink. If you are prone to dry eyes, especially if you wear contact lenses, eye drops add a layer of protection. Consider wearing your glasses to gigs or when you rehearse. Also, be mindful of having proper light and resting your eyes when they are tired.

For Contact Lens Wearers

Wearing contact lenses can make vision sharper, but improper use can lead to potentially serious problems. Over time, contact lens wearers develop microabrasions on the surface of the eye that predispose them to infections. Over-wearing lenses can cause inflammation of the cornea, known as keratitis, or giant papillary conjunctivitis, under the eyelid.

There are no blood vessels in the cornea, which is one of the reasons it’s clear. A contact lens prevents the cornea from getting oxygen. The cornea is resilient and can typically heal from minor abrasions, but major corneal damage can result in a corneal scar. If this occurs, clear corneal tissue may be replaced by scar tissue or become occluded by new blood vessels (a problem called neovascularization). These corneal scars can impair vision.

To avoid infection and corneal damage, first, be sure you are properly fitted with the right lenses. Second and most important, limit wear time to eight to ten hours per day.

Maintaining Balance

One common cause of eye strain in musicians are strenuous, uncomfortable positions musicians sometimes sit or stand in when playing. When practicing at home or rehearsing with the band or orchestra, make sure the room is well lit. Be sure the sheet music is placed so that you are not craning your neck to read the music.

Our eyes are designed to look downward when reading or doing closeup work. Looking straight ahead at a focal point, or worse, upward or sideways, will cause additional strain on the eye muscles.

If you practice with a music stand, adjust it to slightly below eye level and place it where you can comfortably see the notes, without contorting your neck and body. Maintaining a neutral head and neck position is key to reducing the occurrence of eye strain. If you share a music stand and tend to crane your neck, try switching places to create a better balance.

Get an Eye Exam

Make an annual visit to your optometrist or ophthalmologist to keep tabs on your eye health and to update prescriptions. For a more accurate assessment, take sheet music to your eye appointment to illustrate the exact distance of reading material.

According to recent data, if you are between 30 and 40 years old, there’s about a 42% chance that you need some sort of vision correction. The eye specialist may recommend an anti-reflective coating on your lenses, which will reduce the glare from digital devices. If you have sensitivity to light, ask about a blue light filter or a light amber tint.

Seeing Straight: Get the Facts

Myth: Carrots are good for the eyes.

Fact: Carrots contain vitamin A and are indeed good for the eyes. But fresh fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, which contain more antioxidant vitamins, such as C and E, are even better for eye health. Antioxidants may even help protect the eyes against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Just don’t expect them to prevent or correct basic vision problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Myth: It’s best not to wear glasses or contact lenses all the time. Taking a break from them allows your eyes to rest.

Fact: If you need corrective lenses, use them. Not wearing your glasses will strain your eyes and cause fatigue. You should, however, take a break from wearing your contact lenses, for instance, in the evenings or during rehearsals. Glasses should always be worn in conjunction with contacts.

Myth: Reading in dim light will worsen your vision.

Fact: Dim lighting will not damage your eyesight or eye health, but it will tire your eyes more quickly. The best way to position a reading light is to have it shine directly onto the page, not over your shoulder. A desk lamp with an opaque shade, pointing directly at the reading material, is ideal.

Myth: Staring at a computer screen all day is bad for the eyes.

Fact: Using a computer does not damage your eye health. Staring at a computer screen all day can contribute to eyestrain or tired eyes. People who stare at a computer screen for long periods tend not to blink as often as usual, which can cause the eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable. To help prevent eyestrain, adjust the lighting so there is no glare or harsh reflection on the screen. Rest your eyes every 20 minutes. Look up, at a distant object, or outside. Blink regularly so that your eyes stay well lubricated.

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