COVID-19: Electronic Device Use and the Surge in Dry Eye Syndrome
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly increased screen-time for us all- and it doesn’t look like this will be changing any time soon. What used to be common, everyday interactions have become virtual meetings. Work, school, religious services, and even “hanging out” with friends are now done staring at a screen. Rightfully so, with more electronic device use, we are experiencing more ocular discomfort. People of all ages are increasingly complaining of dryness, irritation, grittiness, tearing, burning and intermittent blurry vision – all of which can be symptoms of dry eye syndrome secondary to computer or electronic device use.
Why does this happen?
When we stare at a computer screen, our blink rate decreases three-fold. A natural blink spreads tears across the front surface of our eye and releases a thin oil layer that overlies our tears to keep them from evaporating. Tears are vital in maintaining the health of our eyes and providing clear vision.
Other factors that also contribute to dry eye syndrome can exacerbate these symptoms. These factors include:
- Birthdays (aging)
- Gender- females are more prone to developing dry eye syndrome than males
- Medication use – antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medications
- Health conditions – diabetes, arthritis, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions
- Previous ocular surgeries
- Contact lens wear
If you can relate to any of the above and have noticed an increase in dry eye symptoms with increased screen-time, start taking short, frequent breaks from electronic devices and remind yourself to BLINK more often.
The 20-20-20 Rule
For every 20 minutes that you are in front of a screen, take a 20-second break to relax your eyes and look into the distance (20 feet away).
This might not seem very important, but with long hours on the computer, these short breaks (when done consistently) can have a BIG impact.
If this does not help, you can contact us to schedule an in-person or virtual (ha!) visit to establish a comprehensive solution to your dry eye needs. We are here for you through all the ups and downs life has to offer and will help in any way we can!
Aamena Kazmi, OD
The Dry Eye Doctor @ BFEC