It’s not a coincidence if your eyes feel dry and irritated when you spend too much time on your computer. If you’re already diagnosed with dry eye, the rigors of a routine in the digital age can increase symptoms.

If your eyes are constantly dry, red, and inflamed, it’s best to see an optometrist for treatment options. But understanding how screen time affects your vision is an important part of keeping your eyes healthy despite digital demands. Computer work can make dry eyes more uncomfortable when you ignore the right precautions and strategies.

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a phenomenon that describes the negative impact digital screens have on our visual health. This condition, also known as digital eye strain, produces increased symptoms with increased time staring at computers. The symptoms include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Eye strain
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Neck and back pain
  • Fatigue

What is Dry Eye?

Dry eye disease (DED) is a condition affecting over 16 million American adults today. It occurs when your eyes are unable to stay moisturized due to insufficient tear production. Tears provide the moisture and nutrients that the eyes need to stay healthy and comfortable. When tear production is compromised, it can lead to these undesirable symptoms:

  • Burning pain
  • Eye redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Mucus-like residue in eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Watery eyes

Causes of Dry Eyes

Steady sessions on digital screens can exaggerate the symptoms for someone with chronic dry eye. Although screen time isn’t always the root cause of dry eye disease, long periods on devices certainly don’t help. The initial cause of dry eye can include the following:

  • Blepharitis (swollen eyelids)
  • Refractive eye surgery (LASIK)
  • Smoky, windy, or very dry climates
  • Certain medications, including those for allergies, those for heart problems, antidepressants, and diuretics
  • Existing diseases, like thyroid disease and lupus
  • Hormonal changes in women following menopause

Addressing the root cause of your dry eyes is the most effective way to find a solution. Our optometrists examine your eyes and review your medical history to help isolate the reasons you experience dry eye regularly. Book a Dry Eye Exam and take the first step towards clear, comfortable vision.

Screen Time & Evaporative Dry Eye Disease

One of the reasons your eyes can feel dry is that tears are evaporating too quickly. This is due to an inadequate lipid layer of the tears. The lipid layer acts as an oily barrier to natural evaporation. When glands in your eyelids fail to produce this lipid layer it is known as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) and leads to evaporative dry eye (EDE).

Studies suggest that prolonged computer use and exposure to digital screens can impact how quickly our tears evaporate. When tears are evaporating too quickly our eyes start to feel dry. The main reason for increased evaporation is that we blink 66% less when using a computer compared to other daily activities. But you can help your eyes simply by blinking more when staring at digital screens.

How to Manage Screen-Related Dry Eye

Being aware that too much screen time increases the symptoms of dry eye disease will help you help yourself. You can limit the consequences of CVS with some of the following techniques. If your dry eyes get worse or the symptoms never go away, it’s best to contact us for a Dry Eye Exam.

Blink Often

Most people blink less when they are using a computer. The average person blinks 15-20 times a minute during everyday activities. This can drop down to only 5 times per minute when you are focusing on a digital screen. So remember to blink every few seconds to help prevent your eyes from drying out!

Stay Hydrated

Keeping yourself hydrated is always a good idea, especially if you suffer from dry eyes. It’s recommended that you drink between 2-4 litres of water every day, depending on your size and weight. A lack of water can increase dry eye discomfort, so stay hydrated while you’re on the computer. 

The 20-20-20 Rule

Here’s a simple rule that will help your eyes recover while you’re working on a digital screen. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break, and focus on something 20 feet away. This easy-to-do technique will give your eyes some quick relief from staring at screens right in front of you.

Improve Your Air Quality

Having the right air environment while you work away on a computer can help reduce dry eye symptoms. Remember that air conditioners lower moisture levels in the air. Try turning down the AC when you expect a lot of screen time. If your dry eyes are constant when using the laptop, think about investing in a humidifier.

Remove Your Contacts

Your dry eyes may be exaggerated by wearing contact lenses during long sessions in front of digital screens. Wearing contacts creates a barrier that makes it harder for oxygen to reach the eye’s surface. Since we generally blink less in front of a screen, contact use can leave your eyes feeling dry. Consider switching to glasses when screen time is going into overtime. 

Balance Your Vision & Your Routine

It’s normal for your eyes to feel dry after long periods of staring at your computer or cell phone. Dry eyes can be caused by several things, but we often feel increased discomfort after serious sessions on our digital devices. Recognizing digital eye strain as a catalyst for dry eyes can help you try to prevent it from happening. 

Too much screen time can expose inadequate tear production in your eyes. Thinking that dry eyes will “just go away” is a foolish choice. Instead, visit our optometrists for a Dry Eye Exam. Uncovering the root cause of your dry eyes is the fastest way to use all your screens comfortably and pain-free.