“How much time do you spend in front of screens?,” my eye surgeon asked me during the one-week follow-up visit after my cataract surgery.
When am I not in front of one? I’m a self-employed writer, so all day every day, plus watching television, reading e-books and scrolling through Twitter on my phone during my off-time — even when I’m exercising on the elliptical.
Both prolonged screen time and eye surgery are risk factors for dry eye, which affects up to 30 per cent of Canadians. It’s essentially a problem with the tear film that protects the surface of the eye. (This can cause symptoms that range from bothersome to downright painful — including grittiness, irritation, excessive watering, and impaired vision — and interfere with activities ranging from reading to driving.)
I’m also over 50, a woman, have been through menopause, and take at least one medication that has the potential to cause dry mouth — each of which are also risk factors.
Thankfully, so far, I seem to have been spared. But should I start experiencing symptoms, I’m well-prepared — my ophthalmologist is so passionate about helping her patients minimize the impact of dry eye on their lives that she and other members of her team have created a Facebook page featuring a series of self-management videos.
(Seriously, she’s a rock star. I can’t say enough good things about her and the other health professionals who participated in my surgery, and pre- and post-op care. And I’m someone who has been deeply critical of many of my encounters with the medical system.)
You can learn more about dry eye, from the different things that can disrupt the formation of a healthy tear film to what you can do to fortify it, in this Good Times health feature from May 2018: Living With Dry Eye.
My heartfelt thanks to the interviewees who so generously shared their time, stories and expertise:
- Helen Bratzel, a longtime friend.
- Dr. Rookaya Mather, an ophthalmologist with the Ivey Eye Institute at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, and an associate professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine in London, Ont.
- Dr. Michael Nelson, an optometrist with the Waverly Eye Care Centre in Winnipeg, Man., and president of the Canadian Society of Optometrists.
Video: Dr. Rookaya Mather Talks About Dry Eye (for the St. Joseph’s Health Care London Foundation)