How to Avoid Occupational Injuries as a Translator: Eyes

We can’t leave out eyes in the list of a translator’s physical burdens. Those precious eyes can’t rest because they have to stare at a monitor all day. I don’t know if looking at a monitor worsens your eyesight, but it definitely makes your eyes dry. It’s a condition known as xerophthalmia or dry eye syndrome. For a while, I didn’t make the connection between the two. I was looking at the white part of my monitor and I saw optical haze floating around. It was so annoying that I started thinking about why it was happening, researched it on the Internet, and visited the ophthalmologist. It turned out that it was part of dry eye syndrome caused mainly by looking at the screen too much. Something emitted from my monitor was drying out my eyes, and that’s why the optical haze was happening. This is why finger and wrist pain along with dry eye syndrome are one of the most serious occupational injuries for me, and their occurrence a good indicator for you to realize you’ve been overworking yourself.
You can reduce or prevent dry eye syndrome as follows:


Reducing the amount of translation you do or working on a project in parts

This is a topic that I covered in “Occupational Injuries of Translators (1): Psychological Stress,” and this is the most fundamental measure you can take. The rest are just temporary methods or tricks to get through emergencies; the fundamental measure is to cherish your body and, from a long-term perspective, to take your business in a direction where you work smart and raise your prices instead of working a lot. I’ve already talked a lot about this in several posts, so I will stop here.


Maintaining the humidity of your room/office

Making sure that your room doesn’t get dry would obviously help at least a little in preventing your eyes from getting dry, right? I always turn on the humidifier during the winter, and though I don’t use a humidifier from spring to fall, I keep a plant in my translation office.

The plant I have is called a dracaena fragrans and I got it because I heard it catches electromagnetic waves. It would be nice to keep it in front of the monitor for that reason, but I gave up on the idea because it would reduce my workspace too much. However, the plant is always in a vase full of water and the plant itself releases moisture, so I am raising the plant for that purpose. It has gotten quite big now.


Saline solution


When I went to the ophthalmologist, I was given a medication to put in my eyes when they get dry. I did that for a while, but later learned that the larger size saline bottles contain preservatives and so are unsuitable for habitual use. I could have used the smaller ones, but instead I stopped using the medication altogether. I felt that it was kind of pitiful for me to rely on such a temporary measure to continue my translation work. As I’ve said above, I thought that I should make fundamental changes and improvements to how I work instead of continuing on like this. An Oriental medicine doctor I know told me that regular saline solution is fine. While I’m open to trying that, I haven’t had severe enough dry eye syndrome to have to put anything in my eyes ever since I made a big change in my business direction around a few years ago.



Struggling with eye problems for a while led me to become very knowledgeable about eyes. :D Another factor affecting your dry eye syndrome is that your eyelids; they secrete a kind of oil that forms some sort of film on your eyes, and when that gets clogged, your eyes get dry easily. I understood this when the optometrist showed me the oil that came out from squeezing my eyelids. I was told to wash the area around the eyelashes thoroughly while showering to avoid this problem. So I am taking a little extra care in that area during my showers.



I talked about my job and work situation when I went to the optometrist a few years ago and I was advised to get a new pair of glasses to suit my work environment. So I got a separate pair of glasses that took into consideration the distance I normally sit or stand from the monitor while working. This doesn’t have much to do with dry eye syndrome, but it definitely reduced my eye fatigue. At first, I planned to only wear this new pair of glasses while working and to wear my regular glasses the rest of the time, but as time went by, I slowly started wearing these new glasses all the time. They weren’t too uncomfortable for driving, either. You should consider this, too.




This is a comprehensive measure for not only your eyes but your mental stress, fingers, wrists, back, etc. A nap gives your cerebrum sort of a short break amidst its rigorous schedule that starts at the beginning of each day. Don’t you notice that your slow computer starts working well again after you reboot it? That’s kind of like the effect the nap has on your brain. I usually sleep around 10 to 30 minutes at most and it’s always amazing. If the conditions don’t allow for a full nap, I usually just sit still with my eyes shut for around 5 minutes in the car or wherever, and even that is enough to renew my mood and make my eyes feel clearer. I heard that this is called a siesta in Spanish/Latin American culture and they even make and sell music specifically for it. I bought a CD myself, but even without it I have a talent that allows me to fall asleep within one minute of lying down at any time of the day.


Going for a walk


This is also a comprehensive remedy. It’s said that looking at the color green lets the eyes rest. I don’t know why that is, but anyway, from spring to fall, I always take walks and try not to miss them for anything. You know the saying that you can never eat a meal that you skipped? That’s because it’s already passed. I take my walks with that kind of mentality. Of course, I think I go on walks more because it provides great consolation and joy to my life rather than to prevent any occupational injuries. I’m the happiest when in nature. I usually take my walks during the time when most people are in hellish traffic trying to commute back home, and that fact alone makes me think that the job of a translator is the greatest job in the world. I recommend that you all also make sure to take walks every day.


브라이언은 의료분야에서 한영번역을 하는 번역가입니다. 캐나다 온타리오의 작은 시골 마을에서 아내와 둘이 삽니다. 여행과 독서와 음악과 커피를 좋아합니다.

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