It may seem like silly advice, but some eye surgeons who perform Lasik surgery ask their patients to stick a Post-it® Note written in large print at the top of their computer screens with a single reminder to blink.
It’s actually advice anyone who uses a computer should heed, whether you have had eye surgery or not. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), blinking performs an important function in keeping your eyes healthy. It lubricates the cornea, washes away foreign objects, keeps the surface of the eye smooth and clear, and helps to prevent infection.
Blinking accomplishes all this because it helps to spread tears — consisting of oil, water and mucus — across the surface of the eye. When you don’t blink, when your body fails to produce enough tears or produces tears lacking in oil, water or mucus, your eyes become dry — and trouble begins.
Causes of Dry Eye
Dry eye can occur as a result of Lasik surgery, due to medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or simply because you are getting older. It happens when you fail to make enough tears or when those that you do make aren’t of “high enough” quality.
Wearing contact lenses for a prolonged period of time, staring at computer screens for hours on end without blinking frequently enough, exposure to smoke, wind or dry climates, and taking certain medications can also cause this condition.
According to the AOA, dry eye is fairly common among people over the age of 65 and more common among women than men, likely due to hormonal changes during menopause.
Symptoms include irritation, a feeling of grittiness, scratchy or burning eyes, excess watering and blurred vision. For an accurate diagnosis, ask your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye examination. Dry eye should not be left untreated because over time, it can harm the surface of the eye and damage your vision.
If you do experience dry eye, there are steps you can take to relieve its symptoms.
* Treat mild cases with over-the-counter artificial tear solutions.
* If solutions don’t suffice, an optometrist or an ophthalmologist may recommend blocking the tear ducts from draining, using removable silicone or gel-like plugs or surgery.
* Your eye doctor can also prescribe eye drops that increase tear production.
* If inflammation around the eyelids is causing the problem, your eye doctor may recommend drops, ointments or compresses and lid massage to reduce the inflammation.
The AOA also lists some tips for preventing or reducing dry eye.
* Blink regularly while reading or staring at computer (and other) screens for long periods.
* Increase the humidity in the air where you live and, if possible, in your office or work environment.
* Wear sunglasses to reduce exposure to wind and sun.
* Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
* Ask your provider if nutritional supplements containing fatty acids could help your condition.