Staring at a screen, saving your eyes

screenWith the wave of new technology, many of us find ourselves staring at a screen for hours. Whether you’re old or young, desk job or not, our eyes are often locked and focused.

Luckily, the TV watching, handheld browsing, and most electronics do not directly damage our eyes. Optometrist William White from the Scott & White Pavillion says the amount of UV light being emitted by LCD computer screens and hand-held device is so low it is actually undetectable.

But let’s stop for a moment — are you forgetting to blink? It turns out the only real damage from electronic use is dryness, or secondary dryness eye. So let’s remember to give our eyes a break with a nice, long blink.

Dr. White said when a person is focused on an up close task, like using a computer or hand-held device, the amount times they blink per minute will decrease significantly.

“This will lead to more evaporation of the tears and fewer tears being pumped into the eye,” he said. “When this happens, the underlying tissue will begin to show signs of damage.”

If our eye tissue becomes damaged, it can cause blurred vision, a dry or scratchy sensation, sharp pains in the eyes, redness, or even increased tearing. You may start to feel like a zombie.

Every person is different, and the threshold for the amount of time they can spend working will vary. It turns out that younger people typically have better quality tears and less drying. Also women have more dryness than men, on average.

Steps to Save Your Eyes

“Computers or phones play an important role in our life at and away from work, and have really become a necessity for most jobs,” Dr. White said. “But there are things we can do to reduce the risk of secondary dryness.”

Here are a few tips from Dr. White to reduce dryness:

  • Take a five min break away from the computer after 30 minutes of use. This will allow your eyes to relax and not remain focused up close for too long. Also, it will improve the tear film by increasing the blink-rate and pumping fresh tears onto the surface of the eye.
  • Make sure you have the right glasses prescription to ensure your eyes are not straining more than they need to. A dilated eye exam once a year is advised to make sure it is up-to-date.
  • Try to remember to blink more frequently when working. “I often tell my patients that enjoy long periods of reading to blink after every line they read,” says Dr. White. “Eventually this will become more of a subconscious act. This will keep the tears fresh and spread evenly across the ocular surface.”
  • Stay hydrated and avoid things that may cause more dryness. Water will help your body produce good quality tears. Avoid a fan in your work area, because it will increase the amount of evaporation and lead to more dryness.
  • Maintain good levels of Omega-3 and reduce intake of Omeaga-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 foods include fish, salmon, or walnuts. Omega-6 can be consumed when eating fried foods, and should be limited because it increases inflammation in the body and ultimately reduce the quality of tears. Omega-3 helps reduce inflammation and improves oil production from glands along the eyelids.

These five tips can help protect your eyes from the burning, scratching and dryness. If you know you are prone to dry eye, you can be proactive and purchase artificial tears, oral supplements or talk to your eye doctor for other suggestions.

What have you done to help reduce dry eye and limit time in front of electronics?

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Staring at a screen, saving your eyes