Happy (I think it’s…) Thursday, y’all!
Welcome to my fourth and final post specifically regarding Computer Vision Syndrome! For those of you who are new to the conversation, Computer Vision Syndrome is an array of symptoms that can arise secondary to excessive computer use/near tasks. So far, we’ve covered the symptoms and causes, as well as some general strategies for improving symptoms, and how to address binocular vision related problems (click the links to find out more). What’s left?
Computer Vision Syndrome: Dry Eye
First things first: the causes of dry eye.
In my initial post on Computer Vision Syndrome, I mentioned that computer use significantly decreases blink rate. This is important, as blinking is vital in both the production and distribution of tears!
However, not blinking enough isn’t the only cause of dry eye. It can also be caused by decreased tear production, or by increased tear evaporation.
**Fun fact: Tears are made up of 3 layers! The layer in contact with the front surface of your eye is the mucin layer. It’s sort of hard to explain, but this layer is responsible for helping hold the tears on the eye. The second layer is the aqueous, or watery layer. The third and final layer is the lipid, or oily layer, which helps to prevent evaporation of the aqueous layer!**
Regardless of the cause of dry eye, there are several classic symptoms:
- Grittiness or feeling of having something in the eye
- Blurred vision (that improves with blinking)
Hold up – watering? How can dry eyes be watery?
It’s sort of counter-intuitive, but watering is one of the most common symptoms of dry eye. Tears are naturally produced in response to irritation. In the case of dry eye, however, too many tears are produced, overwhelming the natural drainage system, and causing your eyes to water.
Unfortunately, this excess production doesn’t actually solve the problem, as these tears are often missing the components that help them stay on your eye!
Now that you know the causes and the symptoms of dry eye, the obvious question is – what can I do about it?
If I wanted to, I could make dry eye treatments into a week-long discussion – there are that many different options. In fact, some optometry practices are based primarily on treating dry eye! For today though, I’ll try to keep it short.
In the case of dry eye that’s just caused by not blinking enough, secondary to using the computer more, my advice is pretty simple – follow the 20/20/20 rule, and give your eyes a chance to return to their normal blink pattern! If this doesn’t seem to help, consider buying some over the counter eye drops. My favorite brands are:*
If your dry eye is more continuous and problematic though, your optometrist may pursue other options, like punctal plugs (that literally prevent your tears from draining), prescription medications (Xiidra is my favorite*), special contact lenses, or specially formulated tears.
Additionally, you may be encouraged to help increase the flow of the oily part of your tears by using warm compresses or lid massage.
Dry eye is an unfortunately common condition, that can definitely be exacerbated by screen use. Thankfully, there are many treatment options – it’s all about finding the one that’s right for you!
If, after reading this post, you wonder if you may have dry eye that’s never been diagnosed, ask your doctor! They (should) be happy to address your concerns! If you have new onset symptoms that you’re not sure about – such as redness, pain, itching, or watering – be sure to talk to your provider about this too! While it may be dry eye, these may also be signs of an eye infection. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
*No, I’m not sponsored by any of these brands – they’re just the ones I’m most likely to prescribe. However, if anyone wants to sponsor me, my contact information is below!*