Can Staring Too Long At My Computer Or Phone Screen Cause My Eyes To Dry Out?
Judging by all the things that are blamed on current screen time practices, you might think that this fairly recent phenomena is the root of most of our problems. It would be nice if there was an argument coming to somewhat dispel those dire forebodings about spending too much time on our digital devices but, unfortunately, we are, in fact, going to add to them. According to eye care professionals, there has been a marked increase in dry eyes in children that is being attributed to time spent looking at computer or phone screens. It stands to reason that, even though having a dry eye issue is usually considered a part of the natural aging process, adults who are also experiencing an increase in this condition well before the age that would normally happen, are being affected by the same thing.
When the eyes do not receive enough moisture, it can lead to the condition known simply as dry eye. Symptoms include itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. There may be an issue with the tear ducts not producing enough tears or a problem with the chemical balance in the tears themselves, leading to the eyes becoming dry and irritated or having burning, stinging or gritty sensations.
Causes Of Dry Eye
What causes dry eye? Some of the more common contributing factors include:
Irritation to the surface of the eye over time from:
- Allergic reactions
- Constantly blowing air from HVAC systems or ceiling fans
- Especially dry environments, like airline travel
- Improper contact lens use, fit and contact lens solutions
- Disease of the eyelid
- Prescription and over-the counter medications, like antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, certain kinds of acne drugs, blood pressure medication, diuretics, eye drops and oral contraceptives
Other risk factors include:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Insufficient water intake
- Hormonal changes/menopause
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- LASIK or other eye surgery
- Certain diseases, for example, arthritis, diabetes, lupus thyroid disease and Sjögren’s Syndrome
And, of course, excessive screen time must be added to this list. In the case of screen time, it is believed that staring too long without blinking interferes with sufficient stimulation to the oil glands in the eyelids. To reduce this risk, the 20-20-20 rule is recommended. Take a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus your eyes on something that is 20 feet away.
Whether it’s common knowledge or not, dry eye is a serious condition that affects more than 20 million people in the U.S. alone. Not only is it painful, but it can also damage the eye’s tissues and impair vision. There is currently no cure for dry eye, but there are treatment options. Some of these include blinking exercises, increasing the humidity level at home or work and using artificial tears or a moisturizing ointment. If those are unsuccessful, small punctal plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage, or surgically closing the drainage tubes in the eyes may be recommended.
It is important to treat dry eye as soon as possible. Your eye care professional is your first line of protection and should be consulted as soon as there is any indication of a problem.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of dry eye, Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is ready to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in our three convenient Long Island office locations. For more information about dry eye, or if you have other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you — Bellmore: 516.783.0300, Great Neck: 516.504.2020 or Huntington: 631.427.1690. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.