Dry Eye and Computer Vision Syndrome   

Dry Eye and Computer Vision Syndrome

Dry eye is a common problem that often worsens with aging. Symptoms include eye itchiness, burning, a scratchy feeling, blurred vision, and/or watery eyes. This can be a temporary problem caused by air conditioning, wind, smoke, dry heat, a dry or dusty environment, prolonged screen time, or even eating spicy foods.

     Chronic dry eye is usually caused by a problem producing meibum, the oil that is a necessary part of tears and keeps the front of the eye lubricated. The oil is made in tiny glands on the edge of each eyelid. When those glands become clogged or inflamed, they can’t release this oil. The abnormally tears lack sufficient oil and are watery, and they can’t protect the eye or nourish it adequately. Severe chronic dry eye can result in an infection or even a loss of vision.

Some medications can also cause or contribute to drying out of the surface of the eye:

Oral contraceptive (birth control pills)

Antihistamines, especially the older ones like diphenhyrdramine (Benadryl, etc.)

Diuretics and certain other blood pressure medications

A medication for severe acne called isotretinoin

Some medications for gastrointestinal problems such as those for diarrhea

Some sedatives (tranquilizers) and antidepressants

 

Dry eyes are common with prolonged reading, watching television or looking at a computer screen because you blink less often and blinking helps release the oil needed for healthy tears. It is good to take a break from those activities every 10 minutes or so and fully closing your eyes, with upper and lower lids touching, for 2 seconds. Also, wear glasses or sunglasses when exposed to wind and use a humidifier to keep the air moist, and avoid smoke and fans. You can also hold a warm, clean washcloth to your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes a day. That will help unclog the oil glands. Artificial tears also can help prevent and treat chronic dry eye.

Computer vision syndrome can occur in those who spend two or more continuous hours a day focused on a computer screen or other similar screen. It is caused by sitting closer than 2 feet from a screen, requiring prolonged contraction of circular muscles needed to focus at a close proximity to the eyes. This prolonged straining can make it difficult for the muscles to relax, leading to blurred vision. It can also result in headaches, dry eyes, or decreased visual acuity.

These problems can be prevented by following the 20-20-20 rule (no pun intended but it may help preserve 20/20 vision). This rule is a good reminder to look away from screens every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus instead on something 20 feet away. Try to keep eyes level with the top of your computer monitor since your eyes focus optimally when you’re looking downward. Also, partially closed eyes have less surface area for tear evaporation, lessening eye dryness. Decreasing glare can be helpful too. It is important to keep any corrective lens prescription up-to-date.

Eye drops that reverse eye redness are actually harmful. They decrease blood flow through small blood vessels on the surface of the eye and if used repeatedly, can cause rebound redness, inflammation or even injury to the cornea.

Contacts should never be worn longer than prescribed. Good hand washing before putting them in is also critical. Some eye infections can be very difficult to treat and even lead to permanent eye damage.

Dark green, leafy vegetables, salmon, eggs, and ground flaxseed support healthy eyes. Some research also suggests that vitamin C, zinc, copper, vitamin E, and beta carotene may also benefit the eyes. Being able to see is miraculous. These few steps are pretty cheap insurance to keep the eyes working well.

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Pumpkin

The Power of Pumpkin

You really can’t judge a book by its cover, or a food by its outward appearance. Pumpkin may look like a blank canvas of autumn artists or an iconic Thanksgiving star but it deserves better. Here are some of the benefits of pumpkin:

  • High in fiber (5 grams per half cup serving)
  • Low in calories (83 calories in one cup)
  • Rich in alpha- and beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A

The carotenes in pumpkin make it particularly powerful. Beta-carotene has been extensively studied. One benefit of it that

scientists have discovered is that this antioxidant helps prevent oxidation of cholesterol, and this effect keeps arterial plaque from getting larger. Carotenes also have an anti-inflammatory property.

What diseases can the nutrients in pumpkin help prevent?

  • Arterial diseases that lead to a stroke or heart attack
  • Cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast and skin cancer
  • Population studies suggest it may also protect from esophageal, stomach, prostate and laryngeal cancer as well
  • Recent research offers hope that it may support the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, helping to prevent diabetes, or, if its developed, slow the progress of type 2 diabetes

In Jean Carper’s The Food Pharmacy (New York, 1988), pumpkin seeds have also been found to have some cancer-fighting powers. This book includes some interesting information on the correlation between regular pumpkin intake and lower lung cancer rates in smokers and those exposed to cigarette smoking on a regular basis.

Another advantage of pumpkin is that it is inexpensive. Pumpkin season has just ended so fresh pumpkin isn’t as widely available. In Steven Pratt, MD, and Kathy Matthews’ book SuperFoods Rx (New York, 2004), canned pumpkin is just as nutritious as fresh pumpkin. It doesn’t contain the seeds but it is convenient and fairly inexpensive. Avoid canned pumpkin pie filling since it has sugar added to it and that is one food that not only doesn’t prevent disease but can cause it.