Eyecare Advice for International Students

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For any student starting their first year of university, there are many things to think about: being away from home for the first time, a student loan in your pocket, plenty of freshers' activities on offer, making new friends, maybe going to the odd class...the chances are that eyecare is not on a typical student's list of priorities. For international students who also have to worry about a new culture, a new language and - let's face it - some pretty cold weather, it's even further down the list.

Yet caring for your eyes is important if you want to be able to put the time in in front of your laptop studying without creating health problems for yourself. There are many things which can cause problems with eyesight, especially if the climate is different to that which you're used to. Here we outline a few of the eye-related problems and what to do about them.

Long Flights

On the way in and out of the UK - which may involve five or six trips every year - your eyes may struggle to adapt to the low humidity in the plane. Those wearing contact lenses especially talk of dry and itchy eyes, which are made worse by dozing off on the plane. Having eyedrops to hand is very useful - these can be picked up from any UK pharmacy and will rehydrate the eyes.

The Weather

The UK is (in)famous for its weather, which is at times very wet, very cold, and very windy. The cold wind can dry the eyes of even a seasoned Brit, so those new to the climate can find it especially hard. Your eyes will eventually adjust to a degree, but maybe swap those contacts for glasses and keep eye drops to hand while they do.

Over-use of technology

To be honest, most students are probably guilty of spending a bit too much time in front of their computer and television screens - and that's when they're not staring at smartphone and tablets. But for international students who rely on Skype and social networking to keep in touch with friends back home, as well as using a computer to study, the risk of straining eyes is even greater.

Straining your eyes through looking at screens too long can cause permanent damage to the eyes, so it is important to restrict use of them when you can. Of course, when studying for exams this can be difficult, so remember to give your eyes regular breaks. The 20-20-20 rule works well: every 20 minutes, give your eyes 20 seconds to look at something 20 metres away. It gives the eyes time to refocus without disrupting your work too much.

While laser eye surgery is not for everyone, if you do have impaired vision, the UK is a good place to get that corrected. Specialists such as Ultralase are all over the country and offer free consultations, and the procedure is very quick with little recovery time. Be sure to speak to your university doctor before taking on such procedure, however.

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