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Can You Get Dry Eyes From Using A Computer Or Watching TV?

Yes, computers, television and other digital devices can cause dry eyes — because using these devices affects how we blink.

Blinking is important because with every blink, your eyelids spread a fresh layer of tears across the surface of your eyes to keep them moist, comfortable and healthy.

Unfortunately, people typically don't blink their eyes normally when using a computer or other digital devices or simply watching television intently.

Specifically, computer use affects both blink rate (how frequently we blink) and blink completeness (whether the eyelids close completely during a blink).

We normally blink about 10 to 15 times per minute. But studies show when people are working at a computer they tend to blink less than half that often. Also, computer use tends to cause more incomplete blinks, so the tear film is not spread across the entire cornea.

This decrease in blink rate and increase in the percentage of incomplete blinks increases the risk of dry eye symptoms during computer use.

A good way to re-establish proper blinking when using a computer or other digital devices is to take a break from looking at the screen at least every 20 minutes. During these breaks, direct your gaze across the room (at least 20 feet away) and blink fully and frequently. Do this for at least 20 seconds. (Eye care providers call this the "20-20-20 rule.")

Taking these short breaks routinely can significantly help you avoid dry eyes and computer eye strain.

Notes and References

Blink rate and incomplete blinks in six different controlled hard-copy and electronic reading conditions. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. October 2015.

Blink patterns: reading from a computer screen versus hard copy. Optometry and Vision Science. March 2014.

Computer vision syndrome: a review of ocular causes and potential treatments. Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics. September 2011.

Blink rate, blink amplitude, and tear film integrity during dynamic visual display terminal tasks. Current Eye Research. March 2011.

Computer vision syndrome: a review. Survey of Ophthalmology. May/June 2005.

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Gary Heiting, OD

Gary Heiting, OD, is a former senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 30 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear ... Read more