Our first dry eye article explained what dry eye disease is and how it has multiple causes. To review, anything that disrupts the tear film that coats the front of our eye can lead to dry eyes. One common external cause to dry eyes is screen time.
Screen time duration and habits matter because we blink approximately 5 times less when we are on a screen. Every time we blink, the surface of the eye is lubricated. If we are blinking less often, then we are getting less natural lubrication on our eyes. Recreational screen time outside of work or school should be less than 2 hours a day for adults and older children. If you add up the hours you are on a screen, this could mean significantly less moisturized eyes by the end of the day.
If we do need to be on a screen, how can we make this easier on our eyes? One “easy" tip is to take breaks more often. Ideally, we should follow the 20-20-20 rule, which means taking a break every 20 minutes, for at least 20 seconds, while looking 20 feet away. This is likely not realistic if you are in a flow with work or immersed in a game. However, being more mindful of the importance of taking breaks is key. During the break, it is best to look away from all screens and blink your eyes, or to do another less visually demanding task. Outdoor time is encouraged over screen time for both physical and mental benefits.
If you are experiencing dry eyes, there are other forms of treatment other than just eye drops. These focus on improving the functioning of our eyelid glands to reduce dry eyes more naturally. Keep in mind that healthier screen time habits can also help lead to less strain on our eye muscles. Keeping reading material, a forearm’s length away, choosing larger screens and fonts over smaller ones, and considering prescription computer glasses, can help to reduce that strain. If you are experiencing dry eyes or eye strain, you should head over to your local optometrist so they can recommend the best solution for you.
Dr. Talisa Dennis, OD