Do computers cause dry eyes?

In this world of computers and video games, people often ask: “Can they damage my eyes?” And the answer is on a long term basis they can’t damage your eyes, but on a short-term basis, they can cause problems.

The Americans have coined the term computer vision syndrome. And that includes not only the problem that may occur with your eye but also the fact that sitting in front of the computer can be associated with neckache or backache. As far as the eye is concerned, the problem that using computers or gaming for a long time can cause really relate to drying of the eyes.

So when we stare at screens we will link perhaps less than five times a minute. People have been videoed playing video games and some have been observed to hardly blink at all. And it’s the same with computer screens and many people are now working 8 or more hours a day on a computer screen.

So as a result, the surface of the eye dries out. The tears evaporate in an air conditioned warm office, you may as well put a hair dryer on the eyes. So the eyes are drying out. And that’s called evaporative dry eye disease.

Because the eyes dry out the surface of the eye, the cornea, the bit of the eye we look through, which needs to be crystal clear becomes cloudy. So I liken it to a car windscreen with drizzle on it. If you are staring at a computer screen, you are looking through drizzle if you are not blinking, you blink and it clears the vision. But progressively throughout the day, with prolonged periods of time not blinking, those effects become semi-permanent. And many patients say, that at the end of the day “I can’t see, my eye feels dry and uncomfortable”.

So to address the problem it requires education. So patients need to understand what the problem is, so they can address it. And we talk about the 20-20-20 rule which is: Every 20 minutes take a break for 20 seconds and look at an object 20 feet away. In addition, you may need to use dry eye drops to lubricate the eyes and keep them moist. But it’s fortunately not a permanent problem and usually resolves when you go on holiday.

More about Robert Morris

Rob Morris is a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at The Grange Eye Consultants. His special expertise is in cataract and refractive surgery, including Refractive Lens Exchange, and adult squint. He has over 30 years experience in treating people with eye problems. Rob Morris founded Grange Eye Consultants to manage the increasing demand for more complex refractive surgery. He leads clinical trials investigating novel eye treatments. He is currently Medical Director at Optegra Eye Hospitals.