How to Relieve Eye-Related Discomforts Especially During this Period of So Much Additional Screen Time
By Dr. Janet Woo
Many of my friends and family have been asking me what to do about the fatigue and dry eyes that have occurred this past month. Let me begin by saying that digital electronic use will naturally decrease your blink rate. When you are engaged and reading something, you end up staring. This decrease in blink rate will result in an increase in the rate of incomplete blinks. Your top lid doesn’t go all the way down to meet the bottom. When this occurs, the pool of tears that lay at the bottom doesn’t get washed up over the eye to wet it properly by the top lid. This inaction leads to tear film instability and dryness results. There is an eye exercise for this.
1. Close your eyes completely with the top lid meeting the bottom. Count 1- 1 thousand and 2 one thousand, then open your eyes.
2. Repeat step one.
3. Squeeze your lids together for a count of 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand.
4. Open your eyes.
There are also Blink Training Apps available to download, but if you put a sticky note that says BLINK on the side of your monitor, it’s less “screen” time.
DIRECT air vents blowing in your face will also dry your eyes. Forced hot air heating systems can become problematic, if you are near a vent. Air conditioning vents should also be directed away from your face. Don’t forget ceiling fans too. There are small desk top humidifiers that also can help keep the humidity levels comfortable in your workspace during cold weather. Properly clean after each use.
Set up your work space so that your eyes are looking downward at the screen. Standing desks are great if you are mobile, keep a pad under your feet and the screen is slightly lower than your direct view. When you look upward the eyes become enlarged and expose more of the surface to, you guessed it, drying out. Individuals wearing progressives (multifocals) will also suffer from fatigue with computer screens at eye level because the straight ahead position is meant for distance viewing not intermediate where your screen is. You will end up tilting your chin to catch the sweet spot located lower. You will tire from trying to clear up the view and staring will dry out your eyes.
It is also important to keep well hydrated and that means drinking 8-10 glasses of water/day. I advise my patients to keep a very large container filled with water and make sure it is finished before bedtime. Coffee and highly caffeinated beverages are diuretics and you will end up losing water.
Smoking can also exacerbate dry eyes and those individuals that wear contact lenses know that well.
Contact lens wear and increased screen time will undoubtedly end up with reduced wearing time. That is because the contacts need the water to stay wet and comfortable. The blink exercise or discontinued contact lens wear, using artificial tears formulated for contact lenses will also help with the discomfort. I read somewhere that more people are wearing their glasses because it “makes them look smarter” during the online conference calls. Our patients look fantastic in their eye glasses.
What else can you do to help your dry eyes? Warm (touch to your wrist to test warmth) compresses, light lid massage in the shower (eyes closed, look up and gently, rub your lid margins where the lashes attach to the lid), lid scrubs to remove debris like skin flakes trapped at the base of your lashes (blepharitis), omega 3 fatty acids (triglyceride form of fish oil) about 2-3,000 mg/day- check with your physician for contraindications and artificial tears properly dropped into the eye. Many people miss.
Some of you may have fatigue and dry eyes as a result of simple eye strain with all the near tasks required these past few weeks. A thorough eye exam to eliminate any tear film/meibomian gland dysfunction/lid margin issues as well as a proper refraction and prescription for appropriate lenses ie. progressive, office lenses, computer/reading lenses is in order. Until then, physical/social distance in public, face covering, disinfecting surfaces and hand washing for 20 seconds will help to keep you healthy.
Dr. Janet Woo is an Optometrist and Nutritionist who can be reached via Eye Designs Armonk.
Eye Designs Armonk: 575 Main Street Armonk, NY 10504 W 914.273.7337 mobile 203.554.2084