Is Your Screen Time Causing Dry Eyes?

Reviewed by: Selene A. Burke, OD

Vision Tips & Prevention Vision Tips & Prevention

For most of us, looking at a screen is part of daily life. Whether you have a computer-based job, rely on your tablet for entertainment, or use your phone frequently while on the go, the hours add up. In fact, it is estimated that Americans spend over 10 hours a day looking at screens. Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing Cable News Network (CNN) Go to Source 1 There are many benefits to having so much information at our fingertips, but there can be drawbacks as well. Researchers have coined the term Digital Eye Strain (DES) to refer to vision symptoms that affect more than 50% of people who spend time looking at screens. Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration BMJ Open Ophthalmol Go to Source 2 One of the main consequences of DES is dry eyes.

How Does Screen Time Contribute to Dry Eyes?

Eyes need moisture to stay healthy and blinking is an important part of the eye’s self-lubrication system. Each time you blink you are helping to maintain your eye’s natural tear film. Our blinking frequency is reduced when we look at screens, which can disrupt the moisture balance of the eyes and cause dry eye symptoms.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Most people experience some dry eye symptoms at some point in their lives. People with higher levels of screen time may be much more likely to experience frequent dry eyes. Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Eyes Overexposed: The Digital Device Dilemma The Vision Council Go to Source 3 Dry eye symptoms include:

  • Stinging or burning
  • Redness
  • Watery eyes (a result of excessive tear production to overcompensate for dryness)
  • Mucus or discharge
  • Eye fatigue
  • A scratchy feeling or sensation that there is something in the eye
  • Blurred vision

Tips to Prevent Dry Eyes

If looking at screens can cause dry eyes, then it would stand to reason that we should reduce our screen time. However, we know this isn’t always possible. If significant screen time is a mandatory part of your life, there are still steps you can take to prevent dry eyes or ease the symptoms. Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source What is dry eye? & Caring For Your Eyes American Academy of Ophthalmology & TearScience Go to Source 4,5

Blinking Exercises

Taking a moment a few times a day can prevent or relieve mild dry eye symptoms. Try this: Close your eyes. Squeeze them shut and then relax them while keeping them closed. Open your eyes and then repeat this five times. If you work in front of a computer, set a reminder to do this several times per day.

Over-the-Counter Eye Drops

Mild or occasional dry eyes can be treated with over-the-counter eye drops. Look for types that are labeled as artificial tears. Avoid eye drops that are intended to reduce redness, as these can cause irritation if used long-term. If you use eye drops more than three times per day, consider using preservative-free drops.

Lifestyle Changes

Reduce your screen time if possible. If your day-to-day work involves a screen, try to take periodic breaks. Other lifestyle changes that may help prevent dry eyes include quitting smoking, drinking plenty of water, and eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Prescription Medications

If over-the-counter eye drops do not ease your dry eye symptoms, you should visit your eye doctor. There are a variety of prescription medications available to treat dry eyes.

Doctor Provided Procedures

Patients who suffer from dry eye syndrome or have underlying physiological issues causing their dry eye symptoms may need to be treated with surgery or a non-surgical treatment. An experienced ophthalmologist can assess your eyes and determine if medical treatment may be right for you.

Trusetd Source Checkbox  Sources

1 Howard, Jacqueline. “Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 July 2016,
2 Sheppard AL, Wolffsohn JS. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Ophthalmol. 2018; 3(1): e000146. Published online 2018 Apr 16. doi: 10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146
3 The Vision Council. Eyes Overexposed: The Digital Device Dilemma; 2016 Digital Eye Strain Report. 2016.
4 What is dry eye? American Academy of Ophthalmology. Accessed July 31, 2019.
5 TearScience. Accessed July 31, 2019.

Join Our Newsletter

Presbyopia Life
Take Your Near Vision Quiz Start Here Quiz