In a word, probably.
If you already suffer from dry eye syndrome, the increased screen time due to working from home during a pandemic has likely worsened the struggle.
Last year, most of us made a workplace adjustment, removed the commute to work, and set up home offices to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While some estimates show this led to increased productivity, this is linked to working longer hours, which means more time in front of the computer screen.
The lines between work and home became blurry. We naively thought, what’s the harm in checking my email at 8 pm and staying online until bedtime?
What’s the Harm of Increased Screen Time?
Your optometrist can tell you, the harm of increased screen time shows up on your ocular health chart. Staring at a screen can cause digital eye strain and worsen dry eye symptoms. The work-from-home lives we lead now can have a profound effect on our eye health.
So, let’s discuss the symptoms of dry eye and how working from home demands more from your eyesight. But it’s not all bad—we’ll offer ways to reduce eyestrain and treat dry eye.
Dry Eye Disease & Working From Home
As you may know, dry eye syndrome derives from insufficient lubrication and tears forming to moisten the surface of the eye. For your eyes to remain healthy and your vision to stay clear, a consistent layer of tears is essential.
This layer comprises aqueous (water), oil, and mucous, which come from glands around the eye. When these glands are blocked or clogged, your eyes struggle to produce tear film. As a result, dry eye symptoms may appear, causing discomfort and irritation.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Ask yourself if any of the following dry eye symptoms apply to you. Dry eye affects roughly 30% of Canadians, so don’t stress if you say “yes” to nearly every point—it’s pretty common. Be aware that allergies or other environmental factors could also cause these symptoms. If you think you may have dry eye syndrome, visit your optometrist for an official diagnosis.
- Burning, stinging, or aching sensation
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Heavy eyelids
- Fatigued eyesight
- Sore eyes
- Red eyes
- Photophobia (light sensitivity)
- Blurred eyesight
How Does Working From Home Affect Your Eye Health?
Relocating your work life into a home office increases your screen time. You’re reading this on a screen right now, right? And when you log off your work computer, you probably turn to your favourite streaming app—on another screen—to wind down from the workday.
We demand a lot from our eyes to absorb loads of information. When using a computer or watching a screen, humans reduce blinking frequency by 50%. Normally, we blink roughly 18 times per minute, but eyestrain sets in when our eyesight works on overdrive.
It’s logical, then, to connect the dots between increased screen time and worsening eyestrain. Add to that extreme temperatures (like fans, heaters, and humidifiers) and other causes like ageing, medications, and systemic disorders, and you have a list of dry eye symptoms to reduce.
How to Reduce Your Dry Eye Symptoms
Now, for the good news. You can reduce dry eye symptoms. Forget about living with constant irritation and eyesight disruption. Here are some ways to decrease your eyestrain while using your computer screen and working from home.
- Adjust the height of your computer monitor: The position of your monitor is integral to your overall comfort, including your eye strain. Adjust the viewing angle and distance slightly lower than your line of sight and angled slightly upward.
- 20/20/20 rule: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to gaze at something at least 20 feet (6 metres) away. You can even close your eyes for 20 seconds for extra rest.
- Update your prescription: If you wear glasses, your prescription may need an adjustment. Get a comprehensive eye exam to ensure you have the correct lenses.
- Set the mood: We’re not suggesting you inspire romance during your workday, but appropriately adjusting the lighting can help your eyesight. When your home office is well-lit, your iris and pupils don’t have to work as hard to adjust.
- Maintain room temperature: Your air-conditioned or overheated room could be contributing to your dry eye symptoms, causing your tears to evaporate more quickly.
- Essential fatty acids, baby! Incorporating essential fatty acids, like Omega-3 fatty acids, can help control inflammation from dry eyes.
- Drink more water more often: You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. Staying hydrated is paramount for your overall well-being. Consuming more water can help your body produce more tears, an important consideration when trying to combat dry eyes.
Aside from these tips, your dry eye symptoms could be relieved by following the do’s and don’ts of dry eye. If that’s still not enough, it may be time for treatment.
Dry Eye Disease Treatments
The above symptoms present ways to reduce symptoms at home, but what if your dry eye is getting worse, and those tips don’t cut it? Many dry eye therapies exist to alleviate and treat dry eye disease. Visit your optometrist to discuss which treatment plan is right for you.
After your eye exam at Stoney Creek, you may move forward with one of the following options:
E>Eye – Intense Regulated Pulsed Light Therapy (IRPL)
This relatively new dry eye therapy consists of 3–4 sessions over 75 days. Each session lasts a few minutes, during which your optometrist will use the non-invasive IRPL device to apply a series of 5 precisely calibrated light pulses around your eye. Stoney Creek Eye Care is proud to be one of the few practices in Canada to offer IRPL therapy.
Mibo Thermoflo is an in-office treatment that gently warms and massages your eyelids, using pressure and heat to dissolve hardened oil (meibum) that could be clogging the meibomian glands.
Meibomian Gland Expression
During a meibomian gland expression, we carefully warm the eye area to loosen any buildup. Then we use forceps to manually drain your meibomian glands to improve and restore your tear quality.
Keep an Eye on Your Ocular Health
Working from home during the pandemic has been an adjustment—for our eye health and our lifestyles.
To keep your eyes healthy and comfortable, check in with your optometrist at your next eye exam. Discuss any dry eye symptoms and the ways to alleviate the eyestrain that comes with increased screen time.
Now, treat your eyes to a 20-second break!