Can screen time affect dry eyes?

Can screen time affect dry eyes?

May 13, 2019

There seems to be no getting away from our screens. Whether you work on a computer or laptop, or you are checking out websites or social media on your tablet or smartphone, chances are that you spend a great deal of time looking at some sort of screen. Exactly how long varies from person to person, but studies have found that we are spending longer staring into our screens than ever before.


A recent Deloitte survey has found that the average U.S citizen picks up and checks their smartphone around 47 times each and every day. Other studies have found that the top 20% of smartphone users spend more than 4.5 hours each day on their phone, and this doesn’t take into account however long may be spent looking at a computer/laptop screen during work hours.


There is a great deal of speculation around screen time and the effect that it can have on our health and wellbeing. One area in which there is no doubt that excessive amounts of screen time has a detrimental impact is on the health of our eyes. One condition in particular that is linked to screen time is dry eye syndrome.

What is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye health problem that will affect most people at least once during their lifetime, although they may not realize it at the time since the symptoms can be mild and easily overlooked. In most cases, dry eye syndrome will resolve itself without the need for intervention. However, if you suffer from repeated episodes or your symptoms do not go away of their own accord, you may need the help and support of an eye doctor.

Why does screen time contribute to dry eye syndrome?

Our eyes need moisture to remain healthy. They create their moisture thanks to the actions of the lacrimal glands, which are present in both eyes and work to produce tear film – a complex blend of water, oil and mucus. When we blink, we move this tear film across our eyes, keeping them mobile and comfortable.


However, when we look at screens, studies have shown that we blink much less than usual. When you blink less, your eyes are less lubricated, leading to dry eyes and the symptoms associated with the condition.

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

Common symptoms associated with dry eyes include:

  • A stinging or burning sensation

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Eye redness

  • Feeling like there is a foreign body in your eyes

  • Blurred vision

  • Eye fatigue

  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses

  • Eyes that are watering excessively, which is the body’s way of reacting to the irritation caused by dry eyes

What can be done to reduce the effects of screen time on dry eyes?

By far the simplest solution to reducing dry eye caused by excessive screen time is to reduce the amount of time you spend looking at a screen. However, if your job involves working on a screen, this is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are still several things that you can do to help alleviate your symptoms. These include:

  • Remembering to blink. Try and make a concerted effort to remember to blink regularly.

  • Take screen breaks. Many experts recommend the 20/20/20 rule. This is to take a 20-second break from your screen every 20 minutes and use it to focus on something at least 20 feet away. This will enable your eyes to adjust to distance vision and you will blink more rapidly to do so.

  • Use a humidifier if you can. This will add moisture to the dry air usually found in office environments, preventing your eyes from drying out as quickly.

  • Move your screen into a location that avoids glare. If there is a glare on your screen it can cause more stress on your eyes and vision.

  • Position your screen correctly. Ideally, your screen should be at least 20 inches away from your eyes. The closer it is to your face, the less frequently you are likely to blink.


If you don’t obtain sufficient relief from your symptoms using the tips above, it is time to speak to your eye doctor to see what professional solutions may be suitable to alleviate your dry eyes. If you would like more information about dry eyes, or to arrange an appointment with our experienced eye doctors, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our offices.

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