If you feel like you’ve been seeing ads for dry eye treatments everywhere you look, you aren’t imagining it. Dry eye symptoms are on the rise, and in response, treatment options are expanding to help combat the uncomfortable feeling of irritated, scratchy eyes.
While dry eyes have long been an issue for some people, there are reasons that it’s becoming a much more widespread problem. Our screen use changes how often we blink, and this is having a big impact on eye health and dryness.
Keep reading to find out more about why so many of our patients are experiencing dry eyes, and how we’re committed to providing the best treatment options available.
Why do eyes get dry?
Our eyes are usually coated with a thin layer of tears. These help to keep them both healthy and comfortable. If we don’t produce enough tears or if they’re not the right composition, the result is dry, irritated eyes.
A lack of natural tear production happens for a variety of reasons, including as a result of aging. It can also be caused by hormonal changes, or from certain medications like antihistamines, oral contraceptives, or antidepressants. In some cases, it’s a symptom of general health problems.
However, dry eyes can also be caused by environmental conditions and problems with blinking. Did you know that when you look at a screen, you tend to blink less often? In fact, it’s not just that we blink less often, but also that we have fewer complete blinks. This reduced blink rate contributes to ocular surface dryness, and can lead to dye eye disease and the associated symptoms.
The link between screen use and an increased risk of severe symptoms (as well as clinical diagnoses of dry eye disease) has been established in cross-sectional studies. Changes in blinking habits associated with digital screen use are estimated to contribute to as many as 87.5% of screen workers experiencing dry eyes!
How can we avoid dry eyes caused by screens?
One way to compensate for the drying effects of screen use is to concentrate on blinking fully more often. Taking breaks from looking at your screen is helpful to allow your eyes to rest and rehydrate.
If you find yourself forgetting, try sticking to the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and focus on something 20 feet away from you. This encourages your eyes to blink and enables the natural tears to rehydrate the ocular surface. It also allows your eye muscles to relax.
The next time you come visit us for an eye examination, it’s a good idea to share your digital screen habits with us so that we can evaluate your risk of developing dry eye disease.
What to watch for
Stinging, gritty, scratchy eyes that generally feel uncomfortable are common dry eye symptoms. They may also burn or you might feel like you have something in your eye. Moderate to severe cases can cause blurred vision, light sensitivity, or even excess tearing as your eyes overcompensate for feelings of dryness. These symptoms can become a daily problem and negatively impact your quality of life.
Relief is available
If you’ve noticed symptoms of dry eyes, book an appointment with us as soon as possible. We’ll be able to identify the underlying cause and determine a treatment plan that will bring you relief. At Dr. Sam Dhaliwal & Associates, we’re committed to providing leading treatments for dry eyes. You can find out more about our many available options here.
As we continue to spend more and more time on devices and screens, it’s probable we’ll continue to experience an increase in dry eye symptoms. Whenever possible, give your eyes a rest from the demands of screens, allowing them to blink and rehydrate by focusing on something other than a screen.
And be sure to book routine appointments with our team of skilled optometrists. Comprehensive evaluation of your eye health and personalized treatment recommendations to address your specific needs will help to keep your vision and comfort optimal.