Lockdown and Home Working Have Caused ‘Dry Eye Syndrome’ to Soar
More time indoors with the central heating on and staring at a screen for long periods are both factors that are thought to have led to an increase of Dry Eye Syndrome in the past 12 months.
According to research, around one in four people in the UK (around 13 million adults) currently suffer from Dry Eye, which causes red, itchy and tired feeling eyes. These symptoms can also be exasperated by eye strain – another eye condition that has become more common in tandem with an increase of time staring at screens.
What is Dry Eye syndrome?
Leading optical specialist from essilor.co.uk, Dr Andy Hepworth explains the signs of Dry Eye syndrome and how take steps to treat dry eyes in need of a bit of TLC.
“While Dry Eye is a fairly common eye condition new research has shown that cases have soared in the past 12 months, much to do with lifestyle changes.
“Symptoms are varied, but most people experience a scratchy, gritty feeling that they just can’t shift, redness and puffiness, fatigued eyes that don’t want to open, even when they’ve had enough sleep, blurred vision, sensitivity to bright light and sometimes excessive watering.
“More severe symptoms can be photophobia (light intolerance), eye pain and deterioration in vision.
“Dry Eye is caused when your eyes don’t produce enough lubricant or tears to keep them moist at all times, or quick evaporation of tears. It is this lack of lubrication which makes yours eyes feel gritty and irritated. Its medical name is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS).”
Causes of Dry Eyes
“A very common reason for this occurring is excessive screen time or not giving your eyes regular breaks – and you only have to look at some of the figures to see how our eyes are taking the strain of ‘virtual living’. UK adults purchased up to 21 million new digital devices – including TVs, games consoles and laptops – during lockdown according to research, with a further study by Zen Internet revealing that internet usage in the UK increased by 78 per cent year-on-year in 2020!
“Prolonged exposure to air conditioning or heating, wearing contact lenses for long periods and as a side effect of some medications are other known causes of Dry Eye.
“It can also be down to hormone imbalances. Women going through the peri-menopause and menopause may also notice their eyes becoming dryer as it can be linked to hormonal changes due to levels of oestrogen decreasing.”
Is it serious?
“While uncomfortable and irritating, short term bouts of Dry Eye is not a serious condition. Dry Eye can be managed with drops that lubricate the eyes in a natural way, giving short relief from the uncomfortable symptoms.
“However, if you’re eyes have been dry and irritated for prolonged periods of time then you should visit your optician for an eye test to make sure that there are no other underlying problems. An optician can test for Dry Eye with a fluorescein dye which allows them to measure the time it takes for the dye to start drying.
“The risk of developing dry eye syndrome can also increase chances of other complications such as inflammation of the cornea and conjunctivitis, so it is advisable to visit an optician regularly.”
Avoiding Dry Eye
“The key with Dry Eye is to prevent it from occurring in the first instance.
“If screen time is the issue, then reducing this or wearing glasses with lenses that support the eye’s focussing effort when using digital devices can help to reduce the discomfort that occurs from too much time in front of the computer. Essilor’s Eyezen lenses, with first of its kind DualOptim technology, are specialist ‘computer lenses’, designed to reduce eye strain. Wearing these lenses can support your eyes from working too hard especially when using digital devices and can be worn even if you don’t need a prescription.
“Taking regular breaks is also advisable – resting your eyes every 20 minutes and even stepping away from your computer and going outside to give them a proper break will help. Simple eye exercises can also help reduce Dry Eye. Try alternating between lightly closing your eyes and then forcing them to shut with strength. Do this about 20 times a day to increase your blinking, which automatically produces tears in your eyes.
“Contact lens wearers can be particularly susceptible to Dry Eye so if you are a lens wearer then you should make sure that you don’t wear them for longer than recommended and give your eyes a break by wearing glasses instead of your lenses on some occasions.”
Dr Hepworth added: “A fifth of people in the UK believe that their vision has declined in the past 12 months.
“Stress, excessive screen time, poor diet and missed eye appointments can all impact on eye health, so we’re urging people to consider changes that can be made to your lifestyle to support better eye health and to speak to your optician if you have any concerns whatsoever, and make sure that keep up to date with your eye examinations.”