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Computer Eye Strain and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction

By Mr. Samer Hamada, Consultant Ophthalmic, Corneal and Refractive Surgeon

What Is Computer Eye Strain?

Computer eye strain is a condition caused when you use your eyes too much and they become tired. Eye strain can occur when looking at a computer screen, or bright light, for too long. It may also be caused by over using your eyes in other situations, such as driving.

Computer eye strain is not a disease and normally resting your eye can help relieve the symptoms. Symptoms of computer eye strain can include; headaches, difficulty focusing, dry eyes, watery eyes, eye discomfort, blurred vision, itchy eyes, and tired eyes.

If you get computer eye strain and are working on a computer for several hours a day it may be that you suffer from computer vision syndrome and the symptoms of this can include; computer eye strain, red eyes, shoulder/neck pain, headaches, and irritated and dry eyes.

How Does Computer Eye Strain Cause Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

Meibomian glands are tiny glands on the lower and upper eye lid margin that secrete oil, which when we blink, covers the surface of the eye. This oil helps keep the water component of your tears from drying out too quickly. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a common type of dry eye disease where the glands do not secrete enough oil or the oil is not of good quality.

Normally in MGD the glands get blocked and very little oil, if any, is able to get out and this in turn causes the eye dryness and irritation. Computer eye strain can cause MGD due to a reduced blink rate. Most people when using a computer or similar device do not blink as often as they should, this can be up to 60% less blinking than when not looking at a computer.

As mentioned above, the action of blinking releases the oil from the meibomian glands which coats the eye’s surface. If your blink rate is reduced, the oils will not be secreted as often which means the watery competent in your tears evaporates quicker, drying out your eyes. Overtime this can cause the glands to block causing meibomian gland dysfunction.

How Do We Test for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

There are many tests that can be carried out by an ophthalmologist to see if you suffer from MGD. These can include;

  • Schirmer's Test – this uses a paper strip that is inserted into the lower eye pouch for several minutes to measure the production of tears.
  • Tear Break Up Time – this is done by placing a fluorescein dye drop on the eye’s surface and an ophthalmologist observing the tear film under a slit lamp with you trying not to blink until small dry spots starts to appear. The longer the dry spots take to appear the more stable the tear film.
  • Osmolarity Test – this is done by taking a small sample of tears from the eyes and measuring the saltiness (osmolarity) in the sample. The higher the osmolarity reading the higher eye surface damage.

What Treatment Can Help Meibomian Gland Dysfunction?

There are many different treatments that can help MGD and what suits one person may not suit another. If MGD has been linked to computer eye strain or computer vision syndrome then looking at your computer habits will be where to start.

Trying to reduce the time in from of a computer can be difficult, especially if it is needed for your work, but remembering to blink and keeping hydration levels up can help.

Also try to follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes’ look 20 feet away from your screen for 20 seconds.

MGD sufferers will likely need to combine this with other ‘at home’ treatments, such as heated eye masks, eye lid massaging, artificial tear drops, taking omega 3 supplements, and possibly taking other medication. There are some treatments that can be offered with an ophthalmologist that have great results in helping with MGD when used alongside the ‘at home’ treatments;

  • MiBo Thermoflo – this is a therapeutic treatment to help relieve the suffering of MGD. MiBo Thermoflo works by gently heating and massaging the outer eye lids. MiBo Thermoflo delivers continuous controlled heat to the outer eye lid skin combined with ultrasound gel for a gentle massage. As the heat is deeply absorbed into the tissue it breaks down hardened oils in the meibomian glands. With a prescribed therapy plan the meibomian glands will release thinner and clearer oils which makes for a healthier tear film. MiBo Thermoflo is following by gentle manual expression of the meibomian glands.
  • E-Eye Intense Regulated Pulsed Light (IRPL) – The E-Eye device creates polychromatic pulse light using the new IRPL (intense regulated pulsed light) technology. The E-Eye releases a flash of light that is made up of a pulse train, which is flashed on the treatment area (cheekbone and temple area around the eye). Within this treatment area nerve branches are located and these nerve branches are connected to meibomian gland nerves. When these nerve branches are flashed with the E-Eye (IRPL) it causes a stimulatory response within the meibomian glands and they start to resume secretion of the normal oil layer again and symptoms of eye dryness will disappear. Accordingly, it will be effective in 80% of patients affected by dry eye disease. From a single flash of IRPL it is possible to produce sub-flashes of varying intensities, this offers unparalleled therapeutic potentials, especially with the treatment of MGD, which is impossible with conventional IPL. The E-Eye emits a ‘cold light’ and it is non-invasive, totally painless, and entirely harmless to the eyeball.

To book a consultation with Mr Hamada to discuss the best treatment options for you, contact the Helpline on 0800 917 4922 or make an enquiry via the website

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