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Dry Eye Syndrome: Staring at a screen can ‘change your eyes’*

19th June 2014

dry eyes, screen use

An article in British newspaper ‘The Independent’, yesterday revealed the surprising results of a study which aimed to establish if there is a link between working long hours staring at a computer screen and dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye is an eye condition that occurs when the eye does not produce enough tears within the ‘tear film’ which keeps the eye lubricated or the tears evaporate too quickly. Symptoms include feelings of dryness, soreness and even grittiness, sticky eyelids when waking up and even temporary blurred vision. Watery eyes can also be attributed to dry eye because the eyes are overcompensating in an attempt to relieve the irritation.

The eye’s tear film is partly made up of protein content called MUC5AC, with dry eye sufferers having an average of 3.5ng/mg of MUC5AC, significantly lower than non-dry eye sufferers who have 8.6 ng/mg.*

The study tested both eyes of 96 office workers, half of which spent more than 7 hours a day working on the computer and the other half spent fewer than5 hours working on a screen. As cited in The Independent, the team found participants who worked with computer screens for more than seven hours each day had an average of 5.9 ng/mg of MUC5AC, compared to 9.6 ng/mg for people who spent fewer than five hours daily with screens.

This is a significant find which confirms the theory, as reported in previous LaserVision blog posts, that eyes will naturally produce less moisture when using a computer because you blink less often when doing so. However, developing dry eye from working long hours on computers is only suggested by these findings, not proven. The actual screen itself has no impact on the performance of your eyes. We see with our brains, not eyes, as our eyes function like a camera, capturing light and sending data back to the brain.

There are many ways to prevent the dry eye caused by heavy screen use. The LaserVision team always like to promote the 20-20-20 rule for; for every 20 minutes spent watching/using a screen, stop and look at something at least 20 feet away while stretching and having a little walk for at least 20 seconds. Having a humidifier in the office and avoiding air condition will also help significantly.

*As reported by The Independent.

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