Do your eyes feel strained or irritated lately? More patients are making eye appointments during the pandemic due to increased screen time and subsequent dry eye syndrome.
Definition of Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that affects 4.88 million Americans. It results when the tear glands do not make sufficient tears to moisten the eyes. Untreated dry eye can cause significant discomfort and vision problems, so if your eyes feel dry, visit an eye doctor as soon as possible for relief.
Dry Eye Cases Increasing in the United States
Eye doctors are citing increased numbers of patients during the pandemic. COVID-19 quarantines and social distancing measures 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 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 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.
Women are More Susceptible to Dry Eye than Men
Of the almost five million Americans with dry eye syndrome, three million are women. The unequal distribution of dry eye among women is due to hormonal factors like pregnancy, birth control and menopause. Because women are more prone to dry eye syndrome, it is imperative that they schedule regular eye exams.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
How do you know if you have dry eye? Typical symptoms 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:
- Take regular breaks from computers, tablets and phones. 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 reset your eyes.
- Position your computer screen below eye level. You will not have to open your eyes as wide.
- Use a humidifier in your work area.
- Quit smoking or avoid areas where people smoke.
- Try over-the-counter rewetting drops.