Many Hongkongers use computers at work and a lot of them are on their smartphones almost all the time.
Given such heavy visual focus, some people are prone to symptoms such as dry eye syndrome, soreness and discomfort during exposure to light.
When we stare at an electronic screen, we tend to blink less and our eyes get tired more easily.
The tear film would also evaporate more quickly than it could be replenished. Lack of sleep or eating meals rich in oily food are also risk factors for dry eye syndrome.
The tear film consists of three layers — the lipid layer, aqueous layer and mucin layer.
The lipid layer is an outer layer that helps reduce evaporation of tears. The aqueous layer in the middle is the major component of the tear film. The innermost mucin layer ensures that the middle aqueous layer spreads evenly and helps the tears stick to the surface of the eyes.
Abnormalities in any of the layers will affect the functions of the tear film, cause dry spots and increase the risk of dry eye syndrome.
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), for example, is one of the common medical conditions that causes dry eye syndrome.
Patients with MGD have too much or too little oil in the lipid layer of the tear film, prompting a more rapid evaporation of tears.
From experience, more than half of my patients who complain of dry eye syndrome are also sufferers of MGD.
If MGD is left untreated, it could exacerbate dry eye symptoms. If the meibomian glands are clogged, patients might develop red eyes and suffer complications such as inflammation of the conjunctiva or inflammation of the cornea.
Today, artificial tears, particularly for MGD, are available in the market which could alleviate symptoms of dry eyes.
In the long run, people should safeguard the health of their eyes by being aware of their screen time and getting into the habit of taking regular breaks from the screen.
Take warm eye compress once or twice daily and wear sunglasses in bright sunlight.
When symptoms of dry eyes emerge, see a doctor for timely diagnosis and treatment.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 6.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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