With the increase in jobs that require Americans to work on computers or tablets, more people today are suffering from computer-related dry eye caused by staring at a screen all day.
The primary cause of computer-related dry eye is a decrease in blink rate. Blinking is critical in spreading tears over the surface of the eye and stimulating tear production. While workers focus on the screen, they tend to blink less often. One study measured that while sitting and having a conversation, the normal blink rate is 21-22 times per minute compared to only 6-7 times per minute while reading on a computer screen.
Over time, this decrease in blink rate can cause the eye’s Meibomian glands to become blocked. Located in the eyelids, Meibomian glands create the lipid (oil) layer of tears. Without this tear film oil, an individual’s tears can evaporate four to sixteen times faster causing dryness and discomfort.
There are many dry eye tests that can determine the root cause of an individual’s dry eye. If an ophthalmologist determines the cause to be Meibomian gland dysfunction, then there are dry eye treatments available to treat the issue.
Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D. explains, “There is an epidemic of Meibomian gland disease, oil deficiency, poor blinking and dry eyes caused by increased evaporation of tears. Understanding this has revolutionized my treatment and enabled it to be more effective by working on all of the causes and not just treating the symptom with any old artificial tear. New diagnostic equipment such as the Lipiview to understand the blink and evaluate the oil layer of the tears are leading to improved results from more accurate treatment every day.”