Exposure To Gadgets Leads To Rise In Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease is a condition where the tears cant provide adequate lubrication to our eyes, either due to inadequate production or poor retention in the eyes.

Dry eyes can be associated with symptoms like redness in eyes, pain, fatigue etc.

The COVID-19 pandemic has awakened the country to another epidemic, that of dry eye disease (DED). It is becoming increasingly common among a large section of the population especially during the current work-from-home scenario, thanks to over-dependency on electronic gadgets. 

Dry eye disease is a condition where the tears can’t provide adequate lubrication to our eyes, either due to inadequate production or poor retention in the eyes. Individuals with this condition often present with a sensation of burning while working on electronic gadgets for prolonged periods, difficulty in keeping the eyes open with grittiness and foreign body sensation. 

Dry eyes, otherwise, commonly seen in adults is now also more prevalent in children due to their increased screen time, in the wake of the global pandemic. The world has seen a shift in the daily routine of people of every age group. The major chunk of our work is now digital, with increased dependency on use of computers, phones, and tablets, causing a jump of nearly 30-40 percent in dry eye cases over the past one year.

It has been found that while using any gadgets a person blinks up to 66 percent less frequently, which impacts the hydration of the eyes. The time spent on gadgets whether it is work-related, studies or games demands intense concentration which results in eye dryness. Dry eyes can be associated with symptoms like redness in eyes, eye pain, fatigue, a stinging or burning sensation in the eyes, discomfort with contact lenses, transient blurring of vision, a sandy or gritty feeling and a decreased tolerance to sustained screen viewing. Additionally, prolonged screen usage also leads to straining due to constant effort by the muscles of the eye leading to pain in the eyes and headaches.

To avoid this eye condition, it is important to take frequent breaks from screen usage, keep a good posture and maintain good hydration. To counter the problem of digital eye strain, one can maintain proper lighting without much difference between the screen brightness and the surrounding, adjusting the quality of the display settings to a comfortable zone with good contrast and using special eyewear. 

Treatment of this condition involves drops to enhance lubrication and reduce inflammation in the eyes, certain lifestyle changes and in those with underlying systemic conditions, oral medication to treat the cause. Certain forms of dry eye also benefit from warm compresses, digital massage of the eyelids and treatment with special equipment intended to improve the function of lipid-producing glands in the eye.

Despite the rising prevalence, awareness about this condition amongst the general population continues to be low. Awareness of this insidious disease is very important especially in the current situation where there is extended usage of digital screens for educational, information, or recreational purposes.  Many individuals choose to apply home remedies such as rose water or cold water over the eyes. It is however extremely important to consult an ophthalmologist, not just to treat the condition but also so that any underlying systemic conditions which are often associated with this disease can be detected and appropriately managed. 

Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage dry eyes better.  It is important to educate the public about Dry Eye Disease, so that it can be prevented and treated appropriately in those with the condition. Additionally, it is extremely important to undergo a routine eye evaluation annually so that other eye diseases such as refractive errors, cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy can be detected and managed in the early stages.

(Dr Tushar Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi)

Leave a Comment