65% of us spend three to nine hours a day on digital devices. Even children ages 8 to 18 spend 7 ½ hours a day using a computer, watching TV, playing video games or using some other digital device, according to a New York Times Article.
What does regular use of digital technology mean to eyes?
Well, it can all be summed up in the blink of an eye. Literally. When we blink, it is our body’s way to naturally clean the ocular surface of debris, and to protect our eyes. It is also when fresh tears and the necessary protective oils are spread over the surface of our eyes, making up a stable tear film. A stable tear film is necessary for protecting our eyes and keeping them comfortable.
The rise of technology and use of digital devices is having a profound effect on our eyes, with nearly 70% of US adults experiencing eye strain when using digital devices1. When we spend hours a day looking closely at digital screens, our blink rate slows and, in many cases, blinking becomes limited. Thus, our eyes are not naturally cleansed as often as needed, and the regular replenishment of tears and oils necessary for healthy vision is significantly limited. Additionally, other visual conditions or wearing contacts can potentially dry out our eyes, causing significant discomfort or eye strain.
Increased Susceptibility to Dry Eye Disease
We should all be aware of the increased susceptibility to eye disease and damage that can arise from staring at screens. This is not just with adults, but with children as well. Since nearly everything we do today revolves around the use of digital devices, and we have no doubt become an obsessive digital society, we are blinking less and visual problems are on the rise, most notably Dry Eye Disease. But, what most do not know is that the leading cause of Dry Eye Disease is called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), and digital use is exacerbating its prevalence in adults, and children as well.
A Healthy Blink Rate
Remember, a healthy blink rate ensures that debris is cleared from our eye surface. When we blink less, that means that debris can collect along our eye lids and block the openings of the tiny Meibomian glands in our lids. This can be largely resolved with regular lid cleaning and care.
What is more alarming, however, is that less blinking also means that the oil glands (Meibomian glands) in the eyelids do not function properly. Over time, due to decreased function, the oil hardens within the glands and they can cease to function altogether.
Ask Your Eye Care Professional to Check for MGD
Whether you are using your smart phone regularly, or spending hours in front of a computer screen, TV, or tablet, you’re squinting more and blinking less. This can seriously impair your visual comfort in ways that could have long-term impact and potentially cause lasting damage. Ask your eye doctor about how you can protect your eyes from Dry Eye symptoms and MGD. Not sure if your eye care professional specializes in Dry Eye and MGD? Find a doctor.
Stay tuned as we follow up with tips on how to protect your eyes. Not on our email list? Sign up with your email address below to stay informed about Dry Eye and MGD.
 The Vision Council year. Available at: URL. Accessed January 5th, 2018.