Thanks to the coronavirus lockdown, lots of our usual activity is now taking place via screen, from keeping in touch with friends and family, through to collective worship and yoga sessions. You might be concerned about the impact all this screen time has on your eyesight, particularly if you have a diagnosed disease like glaucoma or dry eye disease (DED). Fortunately, neither condition should stop you from enjoying any screen-based activity.
Joanna Bradley, Head of Support Services at Glaucoma UK, spoke to Stephen Epstein, optometrist, glaucoma patient and the vice-chair of Glaucoma UK, to find out more.
How does the use of screens affect your eyesight, if at all?
When you’re looking at a screen and concentrating, you blink less often and, sometimes, less completely. Your eyes constantly make a tear film which nourishes the front surface of the eye. When you blink the tear film is spread over your eye. If you’re not blinking enough, the front of your eye can start to feel uncomfortable.
Does using screens affect glaucoma?
No, don’t worry about your screen usage if you have glaucoma. There has been one study suggesting eye pressure may increase if people use screens for a long time but any link to glaucoma has not been found.
Does having glaucoma affect how people use screens?
Most people with glaucoma will have no problems. If your glaucoma is very advanced, and your central vision is affected, increasing the font size or switching the colour settings on the screen (e.g. white on black) may make things easier to read.
What can people with glaucoma do to make using screens easier?
Glare can be a problem, so try using a glare-reducing screen or filter and position the screen away from bright sunlight or other strong light sources. This advice is helpful for everyone, not just people with glaucoma! Glaucoma eye drops can cause symptoms of dry eye disease so you may wish to ask your eye doctor whether different eye drops might help.
How does lots of time using screens affect dry eye disease?
Dry eye disease occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. It can make your eyes feel dry, gritty or scratchy, or even watery. Your eyes may also look red. Because people blink less when they’re using screens, this can make the symptoms of dry eye worse.
What can people with dry eye disease do to make using screens easier?
Think blink! And rest your eyes frequently. The 20-20-20 rule is helpful – after 20 minutes of screen usage, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Keep a good distance between your eyes and the screen. Finally, you may find lubricating eye drops (also known as artificial tears) helpful – put these in your eyes as often as you like. Heat pads for eyes can also be helpful and soothing.
Where can people go for more help if they’re struggling?
If you have a persistent problem with dry eye, my advice would be to go to an optometrist practice to buy some eye drops. You can buy these yourself, e.g. at a supermarket, where they may be cheaper. However, if you go to an optometrist, you can ask for advice about which eye drops are the best ones for your symptoms. The optometrist may also recommend a referral to an eye doctor or a MECS (minor eye condition scheme, which runs in some areas) if your DED looks more severe. Finally, look at the Glaucoma UK website or contact their helpline for more information and advice.
Call our glaucoma helpline on 01233 64 81 70 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re open 9.30am – 5.00pm on weekdays.
We would love to hear your opinions and experiences of attending virtual glaucoma clinics during lockdown. How is the experience different to normal? What is good, bad or just worth commenting on? Please send comments to email@example.com.
Are you interested in getting involved in filming discussions? This is for a series of webinars we’re doing, presenting patients’ experiences. You would be paired with someone else who has glaucoma, and have a guided conversation about your experiences of having glaucoma and attending appointments/receiving treatment etc. It would take around 2 hours of your time, and be done via Zoom or other video chat software. If interested or to find out more, contact Joanna Bradley on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re also doing work on improving our booklets and other written information to make them easier to read. We need input from people with glaucoma to ensure we’re explaining everything really clearly and simply. To get involved, please contact email@example.com. If you ever find health information (provided by Glaucoma UK, doctors or anyone else) difficult to read, we especially want to hear from you!