Can You Get Dry Eyes From Using A Computer Or Watching TV?

Too much time in front of a screen can lead to dry eye. What can you do to avoid this, or treat the problem?

Can You Get Dry Eyes From Using A Computer Or Watching TV? in Olympia

American Family Vision Clinic

Screens, and Your Eyes

Dry eye is an uncomfortable condition which can be caused by a wide variety of things, including the environment, nutritional deficiencies, other medical conditions, medications, and more. But what about too much time in front of a screen?

We’ve all been told by our parents at one point or another that we shouldn’t sit too close to our screens, whether that be a tv screen, a computer screen, or a smartphone screen. Can too much time in front of screens actually cause eye issues like dry eye?

As it turns out, the answer is yes, though screen-caused eye issues are more linked with the amount of time we spend in front of them.

Why Screens Can Cause Dry Eye

Why Screens Can Cause Dry Eye

The main way in which excessive screen use causes dry eye is because when we stare at screens, we unconsciously change how we blink. Blinking is important because each time we blink, the eyelids spread a fresh layer of tears over the surface of the eyes, keeping them moist.

While staring at screens, however, most people do not blink normally. Specifically, while looking at screens we tend to both blink less and blink incompletely (with the eyelids not closer complete). With fewer blinks (about half of the normal rate of 10 to 15 times a minute), many of which may be incomplete, the eye doesn’t receive enough moisture to keep it properly lubricated. When this happens, the eye becomes drier than it should be, and dry eye symptoms can result.

Why Screens Can Cause Dry Eye

How Can Dry Eye From Screen Use Be Avoided?

The best way to prevent dry eye from screen use is to avoid getting into a position where dry eye develops at all.

The most commonly recommended method is the 20/20/20 rule. This means that after each 20 minute period you spend looking at a screen, you should take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away. This helps give your eyes a break from the screen by utilizing far vision during these breaks, and also helps prevent computer eye strain, which can also be caused by excessive time in front of a screen.

Exercises to improve blinking

Exercise 1: Spend one minute actively blinking, doing fifty full blinks in that one minute period. Look in each direction (up, down, left, right, straight) and blink ten times in each direction (5×10). When doing this exercise, make sure that your blinks are complete by placing your finger sideways under your eye above your cheekbone, pointing towards your nose. When you blink fully you should feel a gentle brush of your upper eyelashes on your finger. 

Exercise 2:

Close your eyes normally, pause for 2 seconds, then open them. Next, close the eyes normally once again, pause for 2 seconds, and then forcefully close them

Hold the lids together tightly for two seconds, then open both eyes. Repeat for 1 minute.

A firm squeeze is used to ensure that the muscles responsible for closing the eyelids are being used.

Exercise 3: 

Put your fingers at the corners of your eyes and blink. During correct blinking, you should not feel any movement under your fingers.

When you feel anything, you are using your defense muscles on the side of your head. Practice blinking with the goal of using your blinking muscles that are above your eyelids. 

Common Questions

Some symptoms of dry eyes are that your eyes may feel gritty, irritated, scratchy, foreign body sensation, burning, excessive watering/tearing, redness, or you may experience light sensitivity. Other symptoms may include blurry vision; you may notice you find yourself blinking more frequently in order for your vision to get cleared up, after going in and out of focus, due to an unstable ocular surface.
You may have watery eyes because your eyes are actually dry. When you have dry eyes this sends out a signal to your lacrimal gland to produce more tears, but then this results in an overproduction of tears causing tearing/watery eyes. The overproduction of tears is called reflex tearing. Your body is trying to counteract your dry eyes, so it then starts to produce more tears, but then it ends up flooding your eyes with too much tears, resulting in a vicious cycle of dry and then teary eyes. To stop your eyes from watering all the time, it’s important to deal with the root of the cause of the tearing, which is your dry eyes, to stop this sequence of events from happening. But it’s important to also note that watery eyes can be caused by other eye conditions as well, such as allergies, eyelid inflammation, blocked tear ducts, outwardly turned eyelids etc, so be sure to get a thorough evaluation by your eye doctor to determine the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Can You Get Dry Eyes From Using A Computer Or Watching TV?
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Summary

If you are already experiencing dry eye from excessive screen time, artificial tears can help alleviate symptoms. Unless there is another underlying cause of your dry eye, reducing your time spent staring at screens or utilizing the 20/20/20 rule should help take care of the problem. If your dry eye persists or worsens, you should see a doctor, as that may indicate an additional cause or some more significant eye damage.

These days, we all spend more time in front of screens than we used to, and so, dry eye resulting from too much time in front of them is getting more common. Fortunately, in most cases it can be relatively simple to take care of, though in more severe cases you will want to see a doctor. If you have additional questions, or wish to schedule a consultation, you can contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121.

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