The other day, during an eye exam at my optometrist’s office, I mentioned that I occasionally experienced redness in my inner eye.

He knew I was a software engineer and spent most of my work day in front of a screen, and after a few other questions, he diagnosed me with Programmer’s Eye1 — basically, dryness that can lead to redness and irritation, caused by staring at a fixed point for long stretches.

He offered two simple tips to avoid PE:

  • Blink more. When programmers are intensely focused on code, their blink rate tends to go way down. But because blinking keeps the eyes lubricated, a low blink rate can lead to dry eyes. My optometrist advised that while I’m in front of a screen, I try to maintain a normal blink rate of around 15 times a minute.
  • Refocus often. Staring at something a fixed distance away — in my case, the monitor on my desk — can cause eye strain, because the eye muscles have to remain in the same position to maintain focus. You can help relieve that strain by regularly focusing your eyes on something farther away, such as a wall on the opposite end of the room.

I hope these tips are of benefit to my fellow programmers. Keep those eyes healthy!

1 Not the technical term.