Are you a heavy computer user? You’ve probably got dry eye problem
The digital infotainment age not only removes people from personal, face-to-face conversation, but also aggravates the dry eye problem, says a prominent eye doctor.
“The No.1 problem of people always browsing computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones is that they don’t blink as often as they should, which leads to the dry eye syndrome,” says Dr. Cesar G. Espiritu, Manila Doctors Hospital chair for ophthalmology and American Eye Correction Center chief medical officer and preferred practitioner.
“The tear film is a very thin layer of tears on the surface of the eye that keeps the eye healthy,” Espiritu explains. “If the tear film breaks up in ten seconds, you have to blink involuntarily in 10 seconds or less because when you blink, the tear film is redistributed. It’s like recoating the surface of your eye with a film of tears.”
He notes that many call center workers, office secretaries and children playing games on iPads develop dry eye problems because they don’t blink as often as they should.
Espiritu says that for a long time, even eye doctors did not realize that most of the complaints of their patients were due to dry eye. “It was previously undiagnosed and only in the last five or ten years did dry eye get a lot of attention. When the cells inside the gland that produces tears start to atrophy and die, the volume of tears diminishes. So your eyes are prone to dryness.”
Treating dry eyes
To treat the dryness, Espiritu recommends lubricating the eyes every two hours with a tear preparation. Prescribed lubricant eye drops, although higher priced than over-the-counter eye drops, contain certain minerals and compounds that are part of the tear composition and provide the needed nutrients to combat dry eye.
Espiritu, who is chief of the cataract section of The Medical City and a diplomate and board examiner of the Philippine Board of Ophthalmology, says that the usual eye problems associated with aging start to appear above 50.
Aside from dry eye, the common eye problems that afflict senior citizens are diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataract.
“As we grow older, all the endocrine problems already present in the body start to appear,’’ Espiritu says. “Diabetes of the eye becomes more frequent after five years of elevated sugar levels. Endocrinologists refer patients to us if the patient is diabetic five years or more.
“Diabetic retinopathy is associated with symptoms of diabetes and is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness. The problem is that when it is starting, some patients have 20/20 vision. So when that drops, it is too late. If the retina becomes damaged, the patient cannot go back to 20/20 vision. But if detected early and treated early enough, you can retain 20/20 vision.
“If you’re diabetic, you need to consult your eye doctor even before your vision blurs because the damage is permanent more often than not. For blood sugar levels not controlled, consult your ophthalmologist twice a year. If well-controlled, once a year is usually enough.”
As for glaucoma, Espiritu says it can be genetic, familial or sporadic. “Most cases appear after the age of 50 for those with no family history, so that’s something to monitor. There are types of glaucoma that can be managed with eye drops, there are types that require surgery.”
Cataract, Espiritu says, eventually appears in everyone. But some don’t need surgery. “If the cataract is deemed to affect the vision, then surgery is required,” he avers. “For example, between a certified public accountant and a farmer with cataract, most often it is the CPA who needs cataract surgery.”