Between long hours in front of a computer screen, tablets, smartphones and televisions, how much time are Canadians really spending in front of screens? According to a new survey commissioned by Alcon Canada, Canadians are self-reporting spending an average of nearly 11 hours per day looking at screens and it could be affecting the quality of their vision, with up to 25 per cent of Canadians suffering from an eye condition called dry eye.
“Dry eye is becoming one of the most common patient complaints I see as an optometrist,” says Dr. Judy Parks, optometrist at Ancaster Eye Clinic. “More and more, I’m seeing patients in my clinic who are suffering from sore, tired eyes and blurry vision. They come in thinking they need to adjust their glasses prescription, but in many cases, they’re actually suffering from dry eye due to the hours they’re spending in front of screens, which is impacting eye health and vision across all ages.”
The study of 1,500 Canadians, conducted by research firm Leger, showed that two-thirds of Canadians (67 per cent) say that their eyes get tired from looking at a screen. Digital eyestrain, a condition caused by spending too much time in front of screens, is among the largest contributing factors toward dry eye, which occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or when they produce tears without the proper quality.
“Studies looking at the effects of long-term computer use on the eyes suggest that digital eye strain is a form of evaporative dry eye, which is found when glands in the eye are inflamed or clogged. As a result, tears evaporate on the surface of the eye, which can cause them to feel dry, tired or irritated,” says Dr. Parks. “For those who are looking for relief, I typically recommend Systane Complete, an all-in-one eye drop that can address all types of dry eye, whether it’s caused by screen time or another factor.”
Although 25 per cent of Canadians may be living with dry eye, the survey finds that 85 per cent of Canadians have experienced at least one symptom of dry eye. This can include eye fatigue (46 per cent), watery eyes (42 per cent), sensitivity to light (38 per cent), blurred vision (34 per cent), eye redness (33 per cent), and difficulty with nighttime driving (27 per cent).
Of Canadians with dry eye:
- 66 per cent say they experience dry eye symptoms when they read
- 62 per cent say they get dry eye symptoms when they work too much
- 45 per cent say their dry eye symptoms can impact their mood
- 40 per cent say dry eye symptoms have affected their productivity at work
Screen time differs by region, age demographics
When it comes to developing dry eye, digital eyestrain may be among the biggest culprits. Canadians age 18 – 34 spend an average of 13.1 hours of screen time daily, compared to 8.4 hours for those 65 and older. Regionally, those living in British Columbia report spending the most time on screens with 11.2 hours per day, followed by Ontario with 11.1 hours, Manitoba and Saskatchewan with 10.9 hours, Quebec with 10.4 hours. Alberta and Atlantic Canada report the lowest screen time per day with 10.2 hours.
Where is all that time going? Canadians say they spend the most time on computer screens with an average of 4.2 hours per day, followed by an average of 3.1 hours per day spent looking at TV screens, 2.4 hours looking at cell phone screens, and 1.5 hours looking at tablets.
In addition to screen time, dry eye symptoms can be caused by normal aging, hormonal changes, environmental exposure, medical conditions, problems with blinking, or by taking certain medications. The following steps can help prevent dry eye:
- Give your eyes a rest. When looking at screens, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look 20 feet away to fight digital eyestrain.
- Find the right eye drop. While dry eye is often chronic and can’t be cured, the right eye drop can provide comfort and help improve other symptoms of dry eye. Systane Complete is the first all-in-one drop for all types of dry eye, featuring tiny, nano-sized lipid droplets that replenish and lock in moisture across the eye surface. Lipids found in Systane Complete are critical in treating the outer layer of the tear film, which helps prevents the tear evaporation often seen with digital eyestrain.
- Take your vitamins. Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from dry eye and maintain good overall health.
- Stay hydrated. Without proper hydration, your body may not be able to produce tears or keep your eyes moisturized, which may lead to dry eye.
- Re-think your eye hygiene. Between makeup, cleansers and facial wipes, some products leave residue behind on your eyelids that can clog your glands and cause dry eye. Hypoallergenic eyelid cleansing wipes can remove debris and eye makeup left behind by the average cleansing routine.
- Visit your optometrist. Only an eye care professional can diagnose dry eye. For more advanced cases, your doctor may recommend treatment with iLux, an in-office procedure that helps treat evaporative dry eye by unblocking clogged glands in the eyelids.
The Systane family of products by Alcon Canada, which includes over-the-counter eye drops, lid wipes and vitamins, is the number one doctor and pharmacist-recommended brand in Canada for the treatment of dry eye.
Leger surveyed 1,500 nationally representative Canadian adults aged 18+, between May 30 and June 3, 2019 using Leger’s online panel, Leger Opinion. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally. Panel members were randomly selected to receive an email invitation to the survey.