Article Date: 11/1/2012

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Use Education to Take Away the Pain

Patients don’t have to live with that itchy, dry, scratchy, burning sensation.


Jim Thomas

Like most 17-year-olds, my daughter can sit at the computer for hours. The majority of the time is spent doing things she likes to do (Facebook, etc.), but then there are the long uninterrupted stretches of torment, a.k.a. the school research paper.

Much like her father once did, she writes papers in one marathon session, typically the night before they’re due. Unlike her father, who used a typewriter, she uses a widescreen computer and has a regular complaint: Her eyes “bother” her. They feel dry and sore, she’s told me.

Novice advice

By 1 a.m. of one such night, her mood begins to sour. It’s now my duty to do something. (Telling her she should have started the paper weeks ago is no solution, but an act of war.) So I ask how many breaks she’s taken. She replies, “none.”

“One thing that works for me is to take breaks about every 20 minutes,” I tell her. Since 17-year-olds may view their parent’s advice with skepticism, I mumble that the Mayo Clinic’s website (a higher authority, in her view) includes information on computer use and dry eye. I let her know that if her eyes still bother her tomorrow, not to worry — we’ll call her optometrist. I then leave the room. Around 1:30 a.m. she tells me that she took a break, and her eyes feel better. She also tells me about the 20-20-20 rule: Take a break from the computer every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, and look at an object at least 20 feet away. She appears happier now. My job here is done.

Relief through education

There are few warnings about the risks of overuse of computers and phones that regularly connect with teens. And those who understand that overuse can cause eye strain may not be aware of the ways to prevent the agitation. Looking at a bigger picture, the millions who exhibit dry eye symptoms may not be aware of all the prevention and treatment options available. They’d benefit from targeted education about dry eye. As my basis for this statement, I’ll cite the success of those doctors who already deliver such education. We are fortunate that several of these practitioners have contributed to this month’s “Dry Eye” issue of OM.

Editor’s Note: Through the past month, the world has become very familiar with the catastrophic events surrounding Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the East Coast. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have suffered losses. And on behalf of the staff at OM, we wish you the best in your recovery efforts. OM

Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: November 2012, page(s): 6