RUL­ING THE ROADS

Dry-eye dis­ease was found es­pe­cially in the 20-to 30-yearolds—those of­ten teth­ered to smart phones, lap­tops and tablets.

Mandate - - Contents -

The ubiq­uity of screens in ev­ery­day life has led to sleep­less­ness, headaches, and a rash of dry, un­blink­ing eyes. A new study shows that chronic dry eyes—called dry- eye dis­ease—im­pacts about 10 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion, who re­quire med­i­ca­tion to fight the in­creased pain sen­si­tiv­ity and a weaker im­mune sys­tem that come with the ail­ment. “Many fac­tors can lead to dry- eye dis­ease, in­clud­ing cer­tain med­i­ca­tions, hor­monal changes, and sev­eral sys­temic dis­eases, but also work­ing on a com­puter screen,” says lead study au­thor Jelle Ve­hof, an oph­thal­mol­ogy re­searcher at King’s Col­lege Lon­don. “When you stare at a dis­play screen too long, you for­get to blink, lead­ing to an evap­o­rated tear film and, as a con­se­quence, dry eyes and blurred vi­sion.”

It’s not al­ways easy to tell whether eye pain is just an­noy­ing or if it’s ac­tu­ally dry- eye dis­ease—the con­di­tion shouldn’t be con­fused with just hav­ing dry eyes. “Most of us ex­pe­ri­ence dry eyes and some of th­ese other symptoms now and again,” says Dr. Rachel Bishop, an ophthalmologist with the Na­tional Eye In­sti­tute. “If it’s oc­ca­sional, like once a month, no big deal.” You can eas­ily ex­plain th­ese symptoms by pin­point­ing things in your en­vi­ron­ment—like a fan above your desk or a heated of­fice where the air is dry.

But when the symptoms of tear­ing, dry­ness, scratch­i­ness or eye pain start to se­ri­ously af­fect your daily rou­tine—whether you’re avoid­ing the sun or wind, or get­ting blurry vi­sion and headaches at work—that’s when it could be dry- eye dis­ease, says Bishop, who sug­gests head­ing to an ophthalmologist or op­tometrist, if you sus­pect you have the dis­ease. One of the first things doc­tors rec­om­mend is eye drops, also called ar­ti­fi­cial tears. “Th­ese are all very easy to use and ef­fec­tive, and most are sold over the counter,” Bishop says, but warns they should be used in mod­er­a­tion. If you’re us­ing drops more than four times a day, find a prod­uct with no preser­va­tives. “Th­ese chem­i­cals keep bac­te­ria from grow­ing in the bot­tle, and for most peo­ple, they don’t cause a prob­lem.” Us­ing drops 10 times a day is too much chem­i­cal ex­po­sure and ir­ri­tates the eye sur­face.

Bishop also sug­gests us­ing warm com­presses on the eyes, which un­clog the glands and al­low oil to reach the eye. Fish oil sup­ple­ments might also help. “A lot of early ev­i­dence sug­gests that omega-3 fatty acid sup­ple­ments such as fish oil can be help­ful for dry- eye dis­ease,” says Bishop. And when at work or watch­ing a movie on your tablet, it also helps to make a con­scious ef­fort to blink more. “Ev­ery 20 min­utes, look away for 20 sec­onds and blink re­peat­edly,” says Bishop. “This re­duces strain on the eye mus­cles caused by fo­cus­ing on one thing con­stantly.”

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