TIPS: It's exam time again and here are a few ways to take care of your eyes, especially during the long study hours.

Hours of consistent hard study is the only recipe for achieving good grades in an exam. However sitting at a desk or a computer screen for hours on end can be stressful. The reason for eye strain is that our eyes are designed to constantly shift focus between objects that are near and objects that are far away. Eye strain results when the eyes focus on a single close-up object for extended periods of time. Let us consider some practical steps you can take to prevent eye strain.

It is a fallacy that sitting in front of a wall improves concentration. The eyes must be able to relax for distant and near objects. Sit facing a corridor or even next to a window where you can relax your eyes by looking far. In case your room does not permit it, place a mirror before you.

Take a five minute break after every 40 minutes of study as a regular routine. Get up and walk around the room. The eyes get tired of being anchored in a fixed position for any prolonged periods of time.

Schedule study sessions starting early in the morning rather than late night. The common concept is, “At night I concentrate better”. For an exam it is not how much you read but what you can remember on call. Studying during the day is better as you will study faster with a far better reproducible memory than the same amount at night when fatigue results loss of ability to concentrate.

Adjust the lighting in your study area. Though you want the area in your study to be well lit, make sure the room has enough ambient lighting. Studying in a dark room leads to eye strain as the contrast between the lighted and unlighted areas is too much. Light coming from a lamp at your side and back is easier on the eyes.

When we concentrate hard, the blink rate of the eyes drops significantly. This leads to dryness, blurring and diffused vision. Blink frequently whenever you study for long periods at a time. Blinking helps to keep eyes moist. Dry eyes leads to tired eyes. Using tear lubricants is also a good idea.

If you need to work on a computer monitor, position the computer or laptop in a way so that you are not looking at the screen straight on. Your eyes are designed to work in a postion of “ depressed convergence”. The top of the screen should not be higher than your eyes. You should be viewing the screen at a slight downward angle.

The brightness of the computer screen should be the same as the intensity of the lighting in the room. Increase the font size for easier reading. If you experience a “ flickering” sensation from your computer screen, try lowering the computer screen's brightness control or increase the “refresh” rate.

Cut down on large meals. It simply slows you down and causes loss of concentration. Small meals, preferably non-oily at regular intervals is far better. Cut down on excess of tea/ coffee. It only gives a temporary boost. Take your multi-vitamins regularly (lack of Vitamin B1 leads to eyes tiring earlier and even slows down the memory).

If you end the day feeling tired, try incorporating some of these tactics into your schedule.

You may be surprised what a difference such minor adjustments can make.

Dr Keiki Mehta a Padmashree Awardee and Opthalmic surgeon, is with to the International Eye Institute and Colaba Eye Hospital, Mumbai.