Eye discomfort due to work at the screen – what helps?
In many professions, working at a computer screen is one of the typical activities of everyday working life. However, it is not only in the workplace that VDU work represents an enormous strain on the eyes. The eyes also have to strain when chatting and playing games on the computer, which can also lead to eye discomfort, as can screen work in the office.
Find out here what the health consequences of excessive work at monitors can be, how you can relieve your eyes and what can help with eye complaints.
Dry eyes cause eye discomfort
The eye is an extremely sensitive organ that must be adequately moisturized to remain healthy. To keep the eyeball optimally moistened, the lacrimal gland (glandula lacrimalis) continuously produces tear fluid, which is transported into the conjunctival sac via 12 different channels and distributed over the eyeball when blinking through the eyelid.
Excess tear fluid is removed via the inner corner of the eye. It also rinses fine dirt particles, small dust particles, pollen and other foreign bodies from the retina of the eye.
However, these functions can only proceed smoothly if the lacrimal gland produces sufficient tear fluid and if the eye is blinked often enough to distribute the fluid over the eye as a protective film of moisture. This is only the case if there are about 10 to 15 blinks per minute.
Staring fixedly at the screen causes eyes to dry out
During concentrated work at the computer monitor, the rhythm of blinking is often reduced to about 5 to 7 blinks per minute. On the one hand, this results in reduced moistening of the cornea. On the other hand, the eyelids remain open longer, causing more tear fluid to evaporate. The eyes dry out and staring at the screen causes excessive strain on the visual apparatus.
Under these circumstances, the eyes begin to burn, redden and the unpleasant feeling of the sand grain effect may occur. Eye drops, which act as tear substitute fluid to moisten the retina and help to compensate for the loss of moisture, can provide a quick remedy for burning eyes and a feeling of foreign bodies.
Eye drops usually contain the well-tolerated hyaluronic acid, which provides immediate moisture for dry eyes and can alleviate acute eye discomfort. Dexpanthenol is also a substance that can soothe irritated eyes.
Sicca syndrome: dry eye a more widespread condition
About one in five patients who consult an ophthalmologist suffers from keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also known as sicca syndrome. As such the complaint of the dry eye is called, which represents a wetting disturbance.
This occurs not only with the screen work at PC, laptop or tablet, but also with excessive use of the smartphone, in particularly dry ambient air, with taking different medicines or with seniors, who take up too little liquid over the nutrition.
The professional association of ophthalmologists in Germany e. V. states that the most common causes of dry eyes are environmental factors, such as drafts from air conditioning systems and computer screen work, and has a free brochure available for download for affected patients here.
There, sufferers can also find further information on diagnostic procedures and treatment options for dry eyes. The Schirmer test, for example, can provide information on whether the lacrimal gland is producing sufficient tear fluid.
Although eye drops can provide relief from acute burning and itching, preventive measures should be taken to prevent eye discomfort caused by VDU work. This is also recommended for the sake of eye health, as regular overexertion of the visual apparatus can impair vision and also damage the cornea by rubbing the eyelid over the dry eyeball.
Regular breaks and conscious blinking reduce discomfort
To protect the eyes from strain and to ensure optimal wetting of the cornea with natural tear fluid, small breaks from screen work should be taken regularly.
It is ideal if eye drops are applied at intervals of approx. 30 minutes for a few minutes at an open window is gone, in order to throw there the view into the distance and to relax the eyes. When doing this, and also when working at the monitor, care should be taken to blink consciously in order to stimulate the production of tear fluid. Special glasses for working at monitors also help relieve eye strain.
A high humidity in the room helps to reduce the evaporation of the natural tear fluid. Especially in winter, heating air favors the drying of the eyes. Regular ventilation with a wide open window ensures a rapid exchange of air in the office and increases the humidity in the heated room.
It is also helpful to ensure sufficient hydration by drinking. Drinks such as water, diluted fruit juices and unsweetened tea help to regulate the fluid balance optimally.
It is recommended to set up the workplace in the office or home office ergonomically to relieve the visual apparatus and the body. The monitor should be placed low and tilted backwards in order to be able to adopt a relaxing head position. This is also a relief for the eyes.