Over the past six months, Martha Trundle-Selby, 33, has primarily worn glasses despite preferring contact lenses.
During the pandemic, as greater attention is placed on hand hygiene and viruses on surfaces, eyeglasses seem like a more hygienic option than using her fingers to place contact lenses in her eyes, she said.
But bifocals present another problem. Breathing causes her glasses to fog up when she wears a mask. The stay-at-home mom in Atlanta is strongly considering Lasik eye surgery.
“I really hate wearing glasses. And I don't really want to put my fingers to the eyes. Lasik would solve both those problems,” Trundle-Selby said.
Eye doctor report a rising number of patients seeking help with eye problems during the pandemic. Many are tired of their glasses fogging up while wearing masks and wary of possibly contracting the virus while installing contact lenses. Others grapple with the fallout of increased screen time, which can exacerbate a medical condition known as dry eye.
Do blue light glasses actually work? Everything you need to know before you buy a pair
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people not to touch their eyes with unwashed hands to avoid contracting the coronavirus, though the illness primarily spreads through inhaling respiratory droplets.
Trundle-Selby, a longtime wearer of glasses, isn't taking any chances. She has an appointment in late October to see her optometrist and inquire about Lasik.
She joins a growing number of people who have sought out or gotten Lasik, according to Neda Shamie, a corneal surgeon at the Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute in Los Angeles.
Shamie’s office noted a 35% increase in inquires for Lasik, a corrective laser eye surgery, and a 30% increase in Lasik procedures since the remote work era kicked off in March.
“What we hear is that patients are frustrated with the dry eyes that they get with contact lenses because they are spending so much time on the computer, long hours in virtual classrooms or meetings for work,” Shamie said.
What is dry eye?
Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when tears can't provide adequate lubrication for eyes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms usually affect both eyes and may include a stinging, burning or gritty sensation.
Staring at computers, TVs or smartphone screens can decrease your overall blink rate by 33%, according to the University of Iowa Health Care. When you blink less often, that can cause dryness, which is made worse if you wear contact lenses, according to medical experts.
“You may have seen your friends or colleagues who are sitting in front of the computer with kind of a zombie stare. That in itself can cause your eyes to dry out,” Shamie said.
Mile Brujic, an optometrist and owner of Premier Vision Group, said complaints of eyestrain, eye fatigue and eye dryness have increased as people spend more time at home.
“We were already a computer-savvy society, but the pandemic just took it to the next level,” Brujic said.
Tips for eyestrain relief
To avoid dry eye or eyestrain from increased screen time, Brujic advises the “20-20-20” rule. For every 20 minutes spent staring at a screen, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet or so away to recalibrate your eyes, he said.
Over-the-counter “artificial tears” and prescription eye drops such as Xiidra can offer relief, doctors said, but if vision problems from increased screen time persist, you should see a specialist.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Increased screen time amid pandemic causes more eye problems