Virtual Learning 2020 & Dry Eye

Before the Covid-19 Pandemic took a turn for the worse, my husband and I had decided to move back to our hometown, St. Louis.  I have since decided to wait until cases decrease and level off before returning to practicing optometry.  In the meantime, I’d like to share what knowledge I can with the public, in blog posts.  Please let me know if there are topics that interest you, and I will do my best to write about them.

Today’s topic will be about Dry Eye Syndrome.  With these unprecedented times comes challenges we must overcome, including a new normal for back to school. Learning takes on a new form.  Technology has come so far, allowing us to make progress even though we are unable to congregate and learn at a physical location.  But with prolonged screen time comes side effects. 

Children will now be using laptops in order to learn virtually and keep up with education.  Increased screen time will affect their vision. They will not only be blinking less, but also not blinking completely. This means, when they blink, their top eyelid will not completely meet the bottom eyelid. This prevents tears from completely spreading across the front surface of the eye.  This in turn causes less tears on the surface of the eye and less lubrication, thereby causing dry eye syndrome.  Less tears on the surface of the eyes means reduced vision quality when viewing the laptop screen.

Children with dry eye syndrome will complain of blurry vision and it may not necessarily be related to a needed prescription change.  One way to combat prolonged screen time is to follow the 20-20-20 rule.  The 20-20-20 rule states that every 20 minutes, you should take a break and blink for 20 seconds while looking about 20 feet away.  This not only helps with dry eye, but relaxes focus and can help clarify vision. I’d also advise preservative free artificial tears at least once a day.  As time goes on, if your child complains that their eye burns or hurts, is scratchy or tears up a lot, they could be starting to have symptoms of dry eye syndrome.  A thorough eye exam with your local optometrist is the best way to know for sure if your child has dry eye syndrome.

Another eye health tip would be to help with eye fatigue due to increased screen time.  Devices are known to emit blue light, which can cause eye fatigue, among other issues.  A great way to help mitigate eye fatigue due to blue light is to wear glasses with blue blocking capability.  Blue blocking lenses come in different forms.  You want to make sure the filter blocks at least 50% of the blue light to make them somewhat effective.  Some feel a disadvantage of blue blocking lenses is that they are not aesthetically pleasing because they are yellow. However, now that we are staying at home so much more, that disadvantage is not as large of an inconvenience.  I feel during these times staying at home, it is a good idea to get the maximum protection for blocking blue light since we all will be heavily dependent on our devices for an extended time in the future.

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