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Pandemic Screen Time Drives Up Incidence of Dry Eye Disease

Screen Time Can Cause Dry Eye

Dry Eye has multiple causes, but a cause that has grown considerably during the pandemic has been the dramatic increase in screen time due to work-at-home and home-schooling situations.

In short, we are getting way more screen time than is good for our eyes, and we are not taking the precautions to avoid triggering Dry Eye Disease.

Blink More, Stare Less to Avoid Dry Eye Disease

We already knew that an over-abundance of staring at screens has been negatively impacting our eye health, so when COVID-19 confined us inside, we ended up diverting ourselves much more by staring at computer monitors, for both work and pleasure. And business meetings that used to get us out from behind screens now had us parked at our computers all day for virtual business meetings!

One immediate remedy is to willfully take breaks. Give yourself 20 minutes off every few hours to take a walk, call friends rather than text them, or simply stare into the distance. We also certainly recommend the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes you remove your eyes from the screen to stare at anything more than 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. And it wouldn’t hurt to blink 20 times, too! During screen time people tend to blink less than their eyes need to keep their tear film healthy.

When Eye Discomfort Occurs Talk to Your Eye Care Professional

An estimated 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with Dry Eye Disease, but the actual number of Americans suffering from dry eye symptoms is likely much higher. Some reports indicate that nearly half of all U.S. adults experience dry eye signs and symptoms, and 33% of patients in eye care clinics present with complaints about dry eye.*

Dr. Preeya K. Gupta, a corneal specialist and ophthalmologist at Duke Health, said in a recent Healthline article that dry eye is a condition that flies under the radar; not every clinician is automatically looking for it.

“In my own clinical practice, it’s something I see in patients earlier and earlier. Patients sometimes see dry eye as always something that happens when you got older or have certain risk factors, but I’m seeing, these days, with our digital lifestyle, that something is changing,” Gupta told Healthline.

Gupta added that it’s crucial to talk to your eye care professional rather than try to self-diagnose your condition.

“As a clinician, I often wish that patients would come in sooner. The reason is, this disease process responds to treatments better when patients are at an earlier stage of their disease,” Gupta explained. “It doesn’t just improve quality of life but also disease progression.”

In the same article, Dr. Craig See, a cornea specialist at Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute, noted that Dry Eye is often driven by “evaporative dry eye,” where eyelid oil gland blockages reduce the protective oils that keep tears from evaporating too quickly.

When it comes to our obsession with screen time, both See and Gupta say they’ve treated a lot of people lately whose dry eyes have been made worse by watching or reading screens, staring fixedly for long periods of time without blinking.

“Our digital lifestyle has played a significant role in the prevalence of dry eye,” Gupta added in the article. “If you find yourself spending too much time with your screens, the remedy is simple: Take a break.”

EyeGiene® Insta-Warmth™ Dry-Heat Compresses Clinically Proven to Relieve Dry Eye Symptoms

In up to 85% of Dry Eye cases, a primary cause could be the clogged oil ducts in the eyelids (“Meibomian Gland Dysfunction” or MGD). EyeGiene warming wafers, invented by Ophthalomologist Dr. Barry J. Linder, are designed to deliver the right temperature for the right amount of time to unclog the gland ducts and get that oil flowing again.

Find out more about our EyeGiene Insta-Warmth compresses here.


*Data sources:

  1. Farrand KF, Fridman M, Stillman IO, Schaumberg DA. Prevalence of Diagnosed Dry Eye Disease in the United States Among Adults Aged 18 Years and Older. Am J Ophthalmol 2017;182:90-8
  2. Adler R. Dry eye syndrome: Symptoms and causes. All About Vision, 2017.