Eyesight: Half of Britons have eye complaint that can lead to ‘severe disease – expert

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According to a new survey by eye care specialists Rohto, millions of Britons are putting their eye health “at risk”. The research, carried out this year revealed that almost six out of ten adults now suffer from dry eye – a clinical cause of eye irritation, fatigue, and discomfort. If symptoms are not treated, it can develop into chronic dry eye.

Optometrist, Francesca Marchetti, explained how this can happen.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, she said: “Dry eye is caused by a lack of lubrication in the eye – either due to staring at a screen for hours without a break (and a lack of blinking), or because the tear glands are not working effectively.

“In a normal eye, the tear film – the multi-layer moist protective film – covers the cornea and lubricates the eye.

“However, when eyes are overused, the tear glands don’t produce enough tears so dry spots appear on the surface of the eye.

“Hence, when our eyes do not have enough ‘fluid’ in the first place and/or the lipids do not spread over the eye thanks to a lack of blinking, dry eye is caused and our eyes can also experience irritation and discomfort.”

The research, which polled more than a thousand people, found that half of adults complained of irritated eyes and itchiness, while four in ten said their eyes were red, tired and sore.

The main symptoms of dry eye are:

  • Dryness
  • Soreness
  • Itchiness
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Grittiness
  • Stinging
  • Tiredness.

If the symptoms persist and are not treated they can lead to chronic dry eye, a permanent condition that can damage ocular tissues.

In extreme cases it can also cause cornea scarring leading to blurred vision and even loss of vision.

Within the survey the frequency of these symptoms was linked with the amount of screen time, with those enduring 51 to 60 hours a week being 50 percent more likely to experience eye problems

Ms Marchetti said: “It’s vital to tackle this problem early – with regular use of dry eye relief drops which address as many aspects of the condition as possible and therefore break the vicious cycle of dry eye to avoid long-term damage to the cornea.”

She advised taking screen breaks as often as possible.

“Experts like me recommend that we give our eyes a break from screens every 20 minutes by looking at a distant object (20 feet away) for 20 seconds and blink for 20 seconds.

“It’s called the 20 20 20 screen break rules (including usage of multiple digital devices),” she said.

“Yet, only a minority are doing this so it’s no wonder that four out of ten Brits say their lockdown screen habits are making their eyes feel worse than ever before.”

The NHS also recommends:

  • Cleaning your eyelids every day
  • Taking breaks to rest your eyes when using a computer screen
  • Making sure your computer screen is just below eye level
  • Using a humidifier to stop the air getting dry
  • And if you wear contact lenses, taking them out and wearing glasses to rest your eyes.

You may be more likely to get dry eyes if:

  • You’re over the age of 50
  • You wear contact lenses
  • You look at computer screens for a long time without a break
  • You spend time in air conditioned or heated environments
  • It’s windy, cold, dry or dusty
  • You smoke or drink alcohol
  • You take certain medicines (for example, some antidepressants or blood pressure medicines)
  • You have a condition, such as blepharitis.

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