Suddenly Have Dry Eyes? This May Be Why

Suddenly Have Dry Eyes? This May Be Why

( – Because of COVID-19, we are all spending a lot more time at home. Between working from home and Zoom calls, many of us are also clocking in more screen time than ever before. For millions of people in the US, that also means dry eyes. We have the details below.

Is Too Much Screen Time Causing Your Dry Eyes?

Studies show that spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen can result in dryness and eyestrain. It happens because we blink less when we are looking at a screen. In fact, we blink up to 66% less frequently when we’re using a computer, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Blinking is essential because it helps spread tears and mucus across our eyes, keeping them hydrated. When we blink less, the tears in our eyes have more time to evaporate. Typically that results in red and dry eyes.

The dry eye condition that we get from too much screen time has a name: computer vision syndrome.

What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome (CVS), also known as digital eye strain, is a condition caused by staring at computer screens, tablets, and phones, resulting in dry or itchy eyes and blurred vision.

Signs that may indicate CVS include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Tired, sore, itching, or burning eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sore shoulders, neck, or back

What Causes Digital Eye Strain?

There’s no one cause for every person who has dry eyes. Often the culprit is age or a decrease in tear production. But one very common cause is too much screen time.

Other causes include:

  • Vision problems
  • Poor posture
  • Improper viewing distance
  • Glare from a digital screen
  • Poor lighting

Having dry eyes is no small problem, either. According to the American Journal of Ophthalmology, more than 16 million Americans suffer from the condition. The likelihood of developing dry eyes increases as we age. And it’s more common in women than men.

What the Experts Say

Doctors now say they are seeing more cases of dry eyes being caused by excess screen time since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Some also report seeing more patients with nontraditional symptoms like blurry vision or vision that is fluctuating in and out.

While dry eyes are often a minor annoyance that most people cure with rest or medication, it’s important to note that dry eyes might be an indication of an underlying problem. It’s always best to see an eye doctor if the symptoms are bothersome. The earlier we see a clinician, the better the condition may respond to treatments. Doctors say it’s not just about improving our quality of life, but it’s also about disease progression. Treatments work best at earlier stages of the disease.

One cornea specialist at Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute said the lack of tears can sometimes cause dry eyes or digital eye strain. Still, other times it’s evidence of something called “evaporative dry eye.” This is a condition people get when they lack quality tear production. It typically results in blockages of the oil glands around the eyelids, potentially leading to painful irritation.

People with dry eyes may make the bad situation even worse by fixedly staring at and reading or watching screens for long periods, specifically because we refrain from blinking while we are engaged in screen activities.

Dry eyes, or digital eye strain, is a widespread condition — especially because the COVID-19 pandemic left most of us spending more time at home and in front of our devices. Although it can be irritating, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s usually not serious and will go away once we stop, step away from the screens and rest our eyes for a few minutes.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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