Dry eye symptoms have traditionally been more prevalent in people in their
40s, 50s and above. But that may no longer be the case. In fact, Key-Whitman
Dallas Optometrist Amanda Hoelscher, O.D. has seen a dramatic rise in dry eye complaints from patients in their
teens and 20s in the past five years.
Dr. Hoelscher discusses the dry eye symptoms more younger patients are
Digital eye strain exacerbates dry eye symptoms in Millennials
“As we spend more time on the computer for work, and more time on
computers and other digital devices for play, the increase of dry eye
complaints has grown significantly. Today I’m seeing more patients
in their teens and 20s complaining about eye discomfort than ever before,”
says Dr. Hoelscher.
To schedule an appointment with a dry eye specialist at Key-Whitman,
(855) 410-8106, or you can set up an appointment online here.
According to the Vision Council, nearly 40 percent of Millennials (those
born between 1981 and 1996) spend at least nine hours on digital devices
every day. In addition, roughly 70 percent of heavy digital screen users
complain of symptoms associated with digital eye strain – including
dry eye symptoms, blurry eyes, fatigue and neck and shoulder cramping.
A “classic” case: 20-something accountant struggles with dry eye
Dr. Hoelscher recently treated a patient in her 20s who works as an accountant
and came in with complaints of dry eye symptoms in the heat of tax season.
As she explains, “The patient had been wearing contacts for years
without any issues. As tax season heated up, she was working long hours
and experiencing dry eye symptoms that made wearing contacts nearly impossible.”
The patient complained of several of the common symptoms associated with
dry eye syndrome. Common dry eye symptoms include:
- Burning sensation in the eye.
- Grittiness in the eye.
- Pain in the eye (sometimes severe).
- Vision gets fuzzier as the day progresses.
- Trouble seeing on the drive home from work.
Like many other young patients with dry eye problems, excessive hours focused
on near work and the computer screen likely led to the accountant’s
dry eye symptoms.
So WHY does extended screen time dry out our eyes?
According to Dr. Hoelscher, several key factors contribute to the dry eye
symptoms caused by excessive screen time. These include:
- Staring at the screen for long periods of time without blinking.
- Not blinking properly, where the eyelids touch.
- Not taking regular breaks.
Increased exposure to blue light. (Learn about the dangers of blue light
from digital devices in this past post:
"How Our High-Tech World Is Threatening Our Eyes")
Dr. Hoelscher explains how to blink properly and why blinking is so important.
Manage and avoid dry symptoms with “Dry Eye Smart Strategies”
After developing a treatment plan for the accountant who was struggling
with dry eye during tax season, Dr. Hoelscher also offered her several
“Dry Eye Smart Strategies” that the patient could use to
ward off dry eye symptoms in the future. Afterall, she and her contemporaries will be sitting in
front of a screen of some sort for 40 or 50 years or more. Right?
Here are a few “Dry Eye Smart Strategies” you might consider:
1. Retrain yourself to blink properly. During the workday, consciously take time to blink and blink completely
– that means your top and bottom eyelids touch
completely. This helps move the tears over the cornea so the eyes feel more comfortable.
2. Kick the staring habit. Try the 20/20/20 trick, where you take a break every 20 minutes and focus
on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
3. Use artificial tears. Many over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops work well. Ask your eye doctor for
a recommendation for OTC artificial tears or prescription eye drops.
4. If you wear contacts, switch to daily contact lenses. Daily contacts combat protein deposits that adhere to the lens, which
in turn affects hydration of the lens and decreases comfort. “A
question I often ask patients is ‘do you get excited or feel better’
when you put a fresh lens in? If so, you would benefit in most instances
from wearing a daily lens,” Dr. Hoelscher says.
5. Be patient. For some patients, it takes awhile to home in on a treatment plan that
works best for their individual circumstances. Your eye doctor can explain
your options and let you know what to expect.
The root cause of dry eye varies, rely on a dry eye specialist for treatment
“It’s important to know that there are three layers of tear
film in the eye, a mucous layer that sits next to the eye, an aqueous
layer in the middle and an oily layer on top. When there is an imbalance
or decrease in any of these layers that will destabilize the tear film
and can lead to dry eye syndrome,” says Dr. Hoelscher.
Optometrists like Dr. Hoelscher perform tests to determine the root cause
of a patient’s dry eye symptoms. As she explains, “Before
we can prescribe treatment we perform a complete eye exam and an osmolarity
test to find out the extent of dryness. We also examine the eyelids to
see if the eyes are producing the appropriate amount of oil into the tear
film and perform other tests.”
underlying cause of a patient's dry eye symptoms is discovered an appropriate treatment plan can be prescribed. While Dr.
Hoelscher typically starts patients on OTC lubricating drops she works
closely with each individual to revise treatment as needed. Some patients
respond well to other treatments such as:
Punctal plugs, which preserve tears by blocking the drain in the eye.
Serum tears, created by a compound pharmacy using the patient’s blood.
Restasis,® which increases tear production.
Hot compresses and lid scrubs to remove oil deposits.
Lipiflow, a new treatment to unplug the meibomian glands.
Learn more about the revolutionary Lipiflow dry eye treatment
in this recent interview with Key-Whitman President and Chief Surgeon Jeffrey
Don’t ignore dry eye symptoms – regardless of your age
As Dr. Hoelscher explains, “If you don’t take steps to treat
eye symptoms, those symptoms will probably get worse, not better. Many
people also don’t realize that the pain associated with dry can
be very severe and eye infections can easily occur if the condition isn’t
treated appropriately. If you’re experiencing irritated, dry eyes,
contact a dry eye specialist right away.”
To schedule an appointment with one of the dry eye specialists at Key-Whitman
Eye Center in Dallas, North Dallas, Arlington, South Arlington, Mesquite
or Plano, please call
(855) 410-8106, or you can set up an appointment online here.
Photo Source: Pexels