Too much time in front of a screen can lead to dry eye. What can you do to avoid this, or treat the problem?
We’ve all been told by our parents at one point or another that we shouldn’t sit too close to our screens, whether that be a tv screen, a computer screen, or a smartphone screen. Can too much time in front of screens actually cause eye issues like dry eye?
As it turns out, the answer is yes, though screen-caused eye issues are more linked with the amount of time we spend in front of them.
The main way in which excessive screen use causes dry eye is because when we stare at screens, we unconsciously change how we blink. Blinking is important because each time we blink, the eyelids spread a fresh layer of tears over the surface of the eyes, keeping them moist.
While staring at screens, however, most people do not blink normally. Specifically, while looking at screens we tend to both blink less and blink incompletely (with the eyelids not closer complete). With fewer blinks (about half of the normal rate of 10 to 15 times a minute), many of which may be incomplete, the eye doesn’t receive enough moisture to keep it properly lubricated. When this happens, the eye becomes drier than it should be, and dry eye symptoms can result.
The best way to prevent dry eye from screen use is to avoid getting into a position where dry eye develops at all.
The most commonly recommended method is the 20/20/20 rule. This means that after each 20 minute period you spend looking at a screen, you should take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away. This helps give your eyes a break from the screen by utilizing far vision during these breaks, and also helps prevent computer eye strain, which can also be caused by excessive time in front of a screen.
Exercise 1: Spend one minute actively blinking, doing fifty full blinks in that one minute period. Look in each direction (up, down, left, right, straight) and blink ten times in each direction (5×10). When doing this exercise, make sure that your blinks are complete by placing your finger sideways under your eye above your cheekbone, pointing towards your nose. When you blink fully you should feel a gentle brush of your upper eyelashes on your finger.
Close your eyes normally, pause for 2 seconds, then open them. Next, close the eyes normally once again, pause for 2 seconds, and then forcefully close them
Hold the lids together tightly for two seconds, then open both eyes. Repeat for 1 minute.
A firm squeeze is used to ensure that the muscles responsible for closing the eyelids are being used.
Put your fingers at the corners of your eyes and blink. During correct blinking, you should not feel any movement under your fingers.
When you feel anything, you are using your defense muscles on the side of your head. Practice blinking with the goal of using your blinking muscles that are above your eyelids.
If you are already experiencing dry eye from excessive screen time, artificial tears can help alleviate symptoms. Unless there is another underlying cause of your dry eye, reducing your time spent staring at screens or utilizing the 20/20/20 rule should help take care of the problem. If your dry eye persists or worsens, you should see a doctor, as that may indicate an additional cause or some more significant eye damage.
These days, we all spend more time in front of screens than we used to, and so, dry eye resulting from too much time in front of them is getting more common. Fortunately, in most cases it can be relatively simple to take care of, though in more severe cases you will want to see a doctor. If you have additional questions, or wish to schedule a consultation, you can contact Amplify EyeCare Chattanooga at (423) 710 3965.