“How Dry I Am”

Irving Berlin didn’t have dry eye in mind when he wrote those lyrics, but he could have. Then and now, dry eye is a big deal. So now is digital eyestrain. The National Eye Institute estimates that some 5 million consumers over the age of 50 are likely to have dry eye. And, in research conducted by The Vision Council, nearly 70% of adults report experiencing some of the symptoms of digital eyestrain.

Tip: Explain that every 20 minutes, consumers using screens [for any period of time] should take a 20 second break by viewing something 20 feet away.

5million consumers over the age of 50 are likely to have dry eye.


According to Susan Lowe, O.D., chair of the American Optometric Association’s Health Promotions Committee, “Dry eye is one of the most under-diagnosed problems, because a lot of times we don’t listen or ask patients, and they don’t tell us. I try to tell patients that this is a very difficult, chronic problem.”



Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition where, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “The eyes don’t produce enough tears or the right quality of tears to be healthy or comfortable.” Often tied to contact lens wear as well as age, and certain medications and medical conditions, it’s now being addressed more and more in combination with and in conversations about digital eye strain. Regardless of cause, symptoms range from dry, irritated, and red eyes to fatigue, headaches, and more.



With kids spending 5-7 hours a day on screens, reports The National Institutes of Health, it’s becoming clear that dry eye symptoms aren’t just a problem for older Americans anymore, but for every age group—and increasingly that includes kids. According to research findings reported by the AOA, “Dry eye is associated with…impaired performance of vision-dependent daily activities such as reading, driving, watching TV, and using a computer.” Add to that digital devices of all kinds, and it’s clear that dry eye doesn’t discriminate against age.



In addition to drops and ointments, here are just some of the suggestions you can offer patients to help them minimize both dry eye and digital eyestrain.

  • BLINK often, especially if the eyes start to feel fatigue. The natural tendency is to blink less often when looking at a screen, so remind patients to counter that by trying to blink more.
  • BREAKS are critical. Most of us know the 20/20/20 rule, but patients don’t. Explain that every 20 minutes they should take a 20 second break by viewing something 20 feet away.


How do you help handle dry eye and digital eyestrain in your practice? Tell us about it and share in our Facebook conversation here.


Erinn Morgan

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