What Are Ways To Manage Chronic Dry Eye In The Workplace?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Living with chronic dry eye, also called dry eye syndrome, may sometimes make it hard for you at work. The pain and irritation, the need for breaks, and the constant feeling of something in your eye can make it difficult to hold a job and be productive. If you have to be in front of a computer all day, your dry eye symptoms may get worse at work.1

Managing chronic dry eye in the workplace may be hard, but there are things you can do to help.

Are some jobs better than others?

When it comes to dry eye disease, some jobs may be better than others. According to a 2018 study, the type of job you have may be related to your dry eye symptoms.1

If you spend most of your workday in front of the computer, you are at a greater risk for dry eye than those who perform other jobs. According to the study, jobs that were at greatest risk for dry eye included:1

  • Office, legal, and administrative
  • Customer service

Jobs that were least likely to be linked to dry eye included:1

  • Farming
  • Gardening
  • Retail
  • Cleaning

Computer use may cause decreased blink rate and increased tear evaporation, leading to dry eye symptoms. There are other factors besides computer use, but doctors are not exactly sure why some jobs may be better than others in reducing the risk for chronic dry eye.1

Ways to manage dry eyes at work

Even though some jobs may be linked to a lower risk of developing dry eye, this does not mean you need to change your career. There are steps you can take to reduce your dry eye symptoms, including:2-4

  • Consider using artificial tears. Artificial tears are available over-the-counter (OTC) and come in many different brands. Using artificial tears throughout your workday may help reduce symptoms of dry eye. It may be overwhelming to choose the one you want. These come in solutions (watery liquid), gels, or ointments. Talk to your eye doctor about the one that may work best for you.
  • Make adjustments to your workspace, if you can. Ideally, your computer screen should be roughly 20 to 28 inches away from your eyes. Other things you may want to think about include lighting, a comfortable chair, and using anti-glare screens.
  • Use the 20-20-20 method. If you can, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes when using your computer.
  • Consider glasses that protect against bright light from screens. These blue light-blocking glasses may help protect against eye strain and dry eye symptoms.

Can it lead to missed days at work?

Missed workdays from chronic dry eye is a problem for both the person with dry eye and the overall burden to the economy. Some studies have found that people with mild dry eye symptoms miss more than 8 workdays per year. This number nearly doubles to 14 missed workdays in people with severe dry eyes.5

Do I qualify for disability payments?

If your dry eye symptoms are making it hard for you to maintain or find a job, you may consider applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Dry eye and the conditions that cause it are not well known. Because of this, you may find it hard to get disability payments approved. If you want more information, you can go online, talk to your doctor, or find a lawyer who specializes in disability.6

Should I talk to my boss?

You may worry about talking to your boss or coworkers about your dry eye symptoms. You might feel like your symptoms are “not bad enough” to say anything. However, talking about your symptoms can help you get the help you need.

You may want to think about asking for some simple changes in your workplace when possible, such as:2,3

  • Moving your desk away from an air vent that could dry your eyes
  • Asking if you can bring a small humidifier for your desk
  • Moving your computer screen to decrease glare and eye strain

You may decide to speak to the human resources department at work. Reasonable accommodations for your symptoms should be considered, no matter what job you may have.

If your dry eye symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor about additional treatments or the changes to your environment that you may need.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.