By: Stephanie Rice, OD
Have you ever wondered why your eyes are so tired and painful at the end of the day? Many people suffer from Digital Eye Strain. This has become more prevalent since COVID-19 has forced many of us to work from home and socialize using a computer, tablet or smartphone to do our work. Several factors contribute to the symptoms of Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome.
The most common cause of Digital Eye Strain is dry eyes. Blink rate, medications, age and hormones contribute to decreased tear production. Inadequate tear production causes symptoms of dryness, excessive tearing, blur and burning sensations. Dry eyes can even cause tired eyes. Artificial tears, eye drops, good lid hygiene and increased blink rate can help. Staring at a screen or reading material causes our normal blink rate to decrease significantly. Practice blinking during these activities to keep your eyes refreshed, and use quality artificial tears like Systane Ultra or Refresh Optive 3-4 times a day.
Another common cause of Digital Eye Strain is an underlying visual problem like convergence or accommodative insufficiency. Often these problems are not diagnosed during a routine eye examination, but they still cause symptoms of fatigue, eye pain and avoidance of near work. One in four children has an undiagnosed visual problem that interferes with learning. Those one in four children will likely grow up to be adults, so it is easy to think that 1 in 4 adults also has an undiagnosed visual problem that interferes with daily tasks.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms, bring them up at your next eye appointment. This will guide your optometrist to do more testing to try to determine the cause and a solution to your eye strain. They may prescribe eye drops, artificial tears, special lenses or vision therapy. If your optometrist does not check for convergence and accommodative insufficiency, find a developmental optometrist who does this routinely.
Vision Therapy is an excellent way to improve these symptoms. During the pandemic, the optometry department started helping patients with virtual vision therapy. The pandemic allowed us to see more patients for vision therapy and increase from one visit in office each week to 2-3 virtual appointments a week. This has greatly improved the speed of symptom improvement in these patients.