Computers, Eye Fatigue and Dry Eyes: Gen-X; Gen-Y; Gen-DRY
Jodi Luchs, MD, FACS
Computers. iPads. iPhones. The electronic age. They are here to stay – and as all of these devices become permanently integrated into the fabric of our lives, eye strain, eye fatigue and dry eyes have become a daily occurrence.
“Digital Eye Strain” and “Computer Vision Syndrome” are new medical terms which have been coined to describe the constellation of symptoms associated with the constant use of digital technology.
Nearly anything which requires intense near work can lead to eye fatigue – even if you have good vision. Focusing up close for extended periods of time, as required by these devices, is challenging and tiring. Headaches, and blurry vison are common.
To make matters worse, prolonged near work makes you blink less – which leads to dry eyes. Chronically, episodic dry eye from multiple near tasks can even lead to a chronic, progressive dye eye syndrome. When I started in clinical practice 25 years ago, dry eyes were a condition of the 50+ crowd. Today, dry eye is commonplace in the twenty-something crowd. Dry eyes can cause tired eyes, blurry vision, and eye discomfort.
What can we do?
Clearly, technology is not going away – so what can you do to help alleviate these symptoms?
One very popular technique to ease the strain is the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes while working continuously on your device, take 20 seconds to look off into the distance at least 20 feet away. These breaks from the near work will relax the focusing muscles of your eyes and help to ease the strain – leaving you more refreshed and less tired.
Adjust your posture. Poor posture can produce neck strain which can worsen the sensation of eye strain. Adjust your screen height to eye level or slightly lower.
Adjust the lighting. Good lighting is important. Be sure you have adequate lighting which is not too bright or too dim, and that you are in a location which minimizes the glare on your screen
Adjust your location: Avoid sitting underneath a vent or in a particularly dry location which might worsen dry eye.
Wear your glasses: If you have been prescribed glasses for computer work, wearing them will reduce the eye strain.
Treat dry eye. Consider the use of artificial tears when you start work on these devices and again during the 20-20-20 rest periods. You will find that the extra lubrication refreshes your eyes and prepares them for your next work session.
When to see a doctor:
It is important to see your eye care professional when you first notice the symptoms of eye strain or dry eyes. They will perform for a complete eye exam to ensure that your eyes are healthy and that your eyeglass prescription is up to date. It is also important for your doctor to check for any eye diseases or conditions, including dry eyes. With the new diagnostic tests we now have available to help us diagnose dry eye, we can detect it much earlier and initiate treatment. In addition, there are many treatment options available including new generation artificial tears, new prescription medications, and new procedures to improve tear volume and quality, Significant dry eyes my require a combination of these modalities for optimal treatment.
Don’t let dry eye fatigue and computer eye strain hold you back. See your eye care professional today and keep your eyes moving at the speed of light.