Chronic Dry Eye in the Age of Zoom
For many of us, the pandemic cut down on the amount of time we spend with people and dramatically increased the amount of time we spend with screens. From Zoom meetings to doom-scrolling, our smartphones, tablets, TVs, and computer screens have kept us connected to the world. Unfortunately, that increase in screen time has been hard on our eyes – and not just for those with chronic dry eye.
Are our screens hurting our eyes?
More than half of the people who responded to a recent Ipsos poll reported that they are spending more time in front of a screen since the pandemic started. Not surprisingly, this jump in screen time has been notable in people younger than 35. Of the people who are spending more time with their screens, nearly half experienced dry eyes.1
On the other side of the pond, a poll of 2,000 adults living in England found that half of them had also upped their screen time – up to 4 additional hours a day. Of those people, 50 percent of students and 25 percent of working adults believed that their eyesight has gotten worse as a result.2
An uptick in dry eye symptoms
Concern that screens will hurt our eyes dates back to the invention of the TV. However, doctors do not actually know for sure if screen time damages eyesight. But polls like the ones outlined in this article are important ways to learn about how this sudden increase in screen time might affect our eyes.2
The experts at the American Academy of Ophthalmology say that extended screen use cannot actually hurt your vision. However, it can cause symptoms of dry eye.3
If you are concerned about how your screen use is affecting your eyes, make an appointment with an eye doctor. Polls show some people being less likely to go to the eye doctor during the pandemic, out of fear of catching the coronavirus.
However, experts say the pandemic is no reason to skip a trip to the eye doctor or your regular eye exam. Many eye doctors have safety precautions in place. You can also try some at-home tips for dry eye relief.2
Tips to prevent discomfort
If you are spending a lot more time in front of a screen, try these tips to prevent and soothe uncomfortable eyes. It may be helpful to put notes near screens that you regularly use to remind yourself to practice eye care.3
- Remember to blink. Blinking is our body’s way of moisturizing eyes, and studies show we blink less when using screens.
- Use artificial tears or run a humidifier in your home.
- Practice the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Taking a quick walk outside is a good way to do this.
- Wear “blue light blocking” glasses. These are clear-lensed glasses that block the blue light emitted from screens.
- If you wear contact lenses and screen use bothers your eyes, try wearing your glasses instead.
- Adjust your computer. You might find it helpful to decrease the brightness and contrast on your screen. Filters are also available for screens.
- Adjust yourself. Position your computer so you are sitting about 25 inches away, with your head higher than the screen. You want to look down at the screen, not up or straight ahead.
How much has the pandemic affected your life with chronic dry eye?