What causes dry eyes, and which factors are behind the increase in this debilitating condition? Our modern environment is partly to blame. It’s packed with risk factors that are difficult to avoid, especially for city-based office workers who use screens to do their jobs.
A decade or two back, air conditioning was a luxury rarely seen in the UK. Today, while the growing number of air conditioned offices and buildings might make your indoor environment more pleasant in summer, it also drains the humidity from the air, leaving your eyes short of moisture. Unfortunately, it’s predicted that our warming climate is likely to lead to an increasing demand for air-con in future years.
In 2018, London reached its legal air pollution limit for the year in just one month. It’s a no-brainer that air pollution is bad for our health, but it’s something we usually associate with respiratory problems. Our eyes suffer in polluted city environments too, however, with research showing an increase in dry eyes in cities with poor air quality.
This is having a noticeable effect on our eye health, and it’s associated with conditions including eye strain, myopia and dry eyes. With smartphones and tablets carried around at all times, we’re spending more time than ever before staring at computers and devices – to the detriment of our vision.
Contacts can put you at a heightened risk of dry eyes, especially if they are left in for longer than the recommended 8 hours per day.
Another factor in the growing number of dry eyes diagnoses is that today’s eyecare practitioners are better at spotting the problem. That’s good news for patients, as it means that those with chronic dry eye can receive the treatment they need to manage the condition. For many patients, including those recovering from laser eye surgery, regular application of artificial tears is the only treatment needed. For others experiencing chronic dry eye, some clinics have begun offering holistic dry eye treatments that include heat and pressure therapy, combined with massage.
Although dry eyes don’t pose a significant health risk, the impact of the condition on quality of life can be severe. Although it’s difficult to control every aspect of your environment, there are things you can do to mitigate the factors likely to cause the condition. Make sure you take regular breaks from the screen, and remove contact lenses at the end of the day. You could also consider alternative forms of vision correction, such as glasses or laser eye surgery.