More patients are visiting the eye doctor during the pandemic due to increased screen time and subsequent dry eye syndrome.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a common condition that affects millions of Americans. It results when the tear glands do not make sufficient tears to lubricate the eyes. Untreated, dry eye can cause significant discomfort and vision problems, so it is best to visit an eye doctor for relief.
Dry Eye Cases Increasing in the United States
Eye care specialists are seeing increased numbers of patients during the pandemic. COVID-19 quarantine and lockdowns have forced much of the American workforce and school systems to go remote, and eye health is suffering. Staring at computer and smartphone screens all day can decrease the blink rate by 33 percent and cause eye fatigue, eye strain and dry eye (Medical Xpress).
It is essential to seek treatment for dry eye because, when severe, it can lead to severe vision complications, including:
- Surface damage to the eyes. Severe dry eye can result in inflammation, corneal abrasions, corneal ulcers and loss of vision.
- Eye infections. Natural tears protect the eyes from infection. Inadequate tear production can put the eyes at risk for invasion from germs and bacteria.
- Decreased quality of life. Dry eye can make it challenging to perform daily tasks like reading and driving.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Anyone can get dry eye, regardless of age. Typical symptoms of dry eye include:
- Red eyes
- Stinging or burning of the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- A scratchy feeling in the eye
Natural Treatments for Dry Eye
If you are experiencing dry eye syndrome symptoms, call your eye doctor to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. In the meantime, you can try some of these natural treatments:
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Take regular breaks from screens. Remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from your screen and look at something at least 20 feet away to refocus your eyes.
- Position your computer screen below eye level. You will not have to open your eyes as wide.
- Quit smoking or avoid areas where people smoke.
- Try over-the-counter lubricating eye drops.
Call Your Ophthalmologist
Annual comprehensive eye exams are an essential part of preventive care. Eye exams offer a window to your overall health, and your ophthalmologist will test you for several eye diseases as well as evaluate your eye prescription. Find an eye care specialist in your area.