By Dr. Melissa Vanray, O.D.
If you’re like me then the COVID Pandemic has increased your screen time to an all time high. What used to be common, everyday interactions with people have now gone virtual. My work and church meetings used be in person but now they are over Zoom. Classes are all online. Hanging out with friends is now done
Vista Eye Care’s staff meet for daily Zoom meetings as we prepare to re-open our practice.
staring at a screen as well. With increased usage of electronic devices comes increased ocular discomfort for many people. Do you notice more dryness or irritation of your eyes? Gritty feeling? Tearing or burning? Intermittent blurry vision from staring at screens? These can all be symptoms of dry eye syndrome related to computer or other electronic device usage. When we are staring at our screens, our blink rate decreases, which decreases the amount of new tears being spread over the front surface of our eyes. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of our eyes and for providing clear vision.
There are other factors, besides screen time, which can also affect the ocular surface. As we get older, our eyes tend to dry out more as part of the aging process. Women are more likely to have dry eyes compared to men which can be linked to hormonal changes. Some medications may reduce the amount of tears produced including antihistamines (certain allergy medications), blood pressure medications, and antidepressants. Some health conditions are associated with an increased risk of dry eyes including arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid disease to name a few. Living in Colorado, or other low humidity areas, increase our risk for dry eye, as well as does smoke and wind. Contact lens wear and refractive surgery (such as LASIK or PRK) can cause decreased tear production and dry eye as well.
If you can relate to any of the above, then you’re probably wondering what can be done. Maybe of our patients have tried some redness reliever eye drops (like the ones that start with the letter “V” but will remain unnamed), and they haven’t really helped or worse your eyes are now addicted to them. Good news! There are better options. First, practice good visual hygiene which includes taking short but frequent breaks from electronic devices and reminding yourself to blink more often. Start following the “20/20” rule. The rule is for every 20 minutes that you are in front of a screen, take at least 20 seconds to relax and look at something far away. Even as I am typing this I have to remind myself to blink, turn my eyes away from the computer and look out the window to gaze upon the mountains. Oh wait, this office doesn’t have a window! But seriously, this seems like a little thing but can actually have a big impact on eye comfort especially if you spend long hours on the computer.
Secondly, there are over the counter (OTC) artificial tears which improve symptoms for most people. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production or increase the thickness of your own tears that help them stick to the front of the eye between blinks. Preservative-free artificial tears are the best because they contain fewer chemicals which can cause further eye irritation. Vista Eye Care’s favorite brand, Oasis Tears, are available for pick up or can be shipped to your home -just call us or email us to send you a few boxes. If OTC drops aren’t cutting it, there are other options and dry eye treatments available -in fact, Vista Eye Care’s Dry Eye Clinic offers a comprehensive solution to your dry eye needs. Please contact us by email or call us at (303) 450-2020 to schedule your annual comprehensive ey and vision examination, or a dry eye visit. In good times and bad, we are here to help you in any way that we can!