How many hours per day do you spend on a digital device? I can bet that, for many of you, it’s more than two to three hours per day. But what does this have to do with dry eye disease? Well, more than you think.
A recent article out of Wake Forest, NC detailed the alarming and devastating story about a woman diagnosed with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). The article discusses how MGD is common as we age, but we are beginning to see it at younger and younger ages, even in children and teens. But why could this be?
The increase in digital device use in the past decade may largely be to blame. When we stare at our computers, phones, or tablets throughout the day, our eyes naturally blink less. This is an issue because it is this blinking that allows the meibomian glands to release oils into our tears, spreading them across the eyes. A well known statistic to optometrists, and one that the article references, is that we blink up to 60% less when we’re staring at a digital device (or simply reading, for that matter). This can wreak havoc on our meibomian glands by not allowing those oils to be released and spread over the eyes as they should be.
And this is increasingly alarming for teens, who spend an average of seven hours staring at their phones or other devices throughout the day. Most schools now require a computer or tablet to be used for school work, and this is only exacerbating the issue.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction and Dry Eye Symptoms
Symptoms of MGD and dry eye disease are often the same, and they may include:
Burning or irritation of the eyes
Redness of the eyes and/or eyelid margins
Tearing or watering
Blurred vision, often intermittent
Eyelids stuck together in the morning
If you notice any of these symptoms regularly, or you have already been diagnosed with MGD, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you’re on digital devices regularly, try to cut back on the amount you use them. Even decreasing use by an hour or two will help greatly.
If you work on a computer all day and can’t easily back down, employ the 20-20-20 Rule. This rule states that, every 20 minutes, you should look 20 feet away from your computer for 20 seconds at a time. This allows you to give your eyes a break throughout your work day. The easiest way to accomplish this is to set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you, and you can even take advantage of this little break by running to the bathroom or going to grab a glass of water (hydration is key, you know!)
All in all, I wholeheartedly agree with this article and the effects that digital devices are having on our eyes. It’s a scary thought, because this use of devices is not likely to go away any time soon and is even more likely to increase in the coming years. Until then, all we can do is be proactive for our own health, cutting down on use when we can and taking care of our eyes in the best possible way.