a slower rate — 240 words per minute, versus 272 per minute in the two other groups.
Dr. Angie Wen is an ophthalmologist at Mount Sinai’s New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, in New York City. She says the findings reflect what she often sees in her practice: Patients who see well on visual exams complain of problems with “sustained visual tasks” in daily life.
Wen notes that the average slowdown on the prolonged reading test could hinder people in the “real world.”
“It can really make a difference in efficiency in the workplace or enjoyment of leisure reading,” she adds, “especially in those who have other concurrent eye problems, such as decreased contrast acuity from cataracts.”
Treatment for dry eye
Fortunately, Karakus says, there are treatments for dry eye. People who notice symptoms can try over-the-counter lubricating eye drops, she shares– but it’s best to see an eye doctor for an evaluation.
In certain cases, Karakus notes, an underlying medical condition — like Sjogren’s syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis — might be the cause. Plus, she added, some people may do better with prescription eye drops or other treatments. For example, doctors sometimes insert tiny “plugs” into the tear ducts, to help a person’s natural tears stay in the eyes longer.
In the current study, people with clinical dry eye were asked to stop taking any prescription drops for a month. That was to isolate the effects of dry eye, itself, on their reading, Karakus shares.
So it’s possible they would have fared better if they’d been using their prescriptions, she notes.
Lifestyle changes can also ease dry eye, Karakus adds. If you wake up with dry eyes, using a humidifier in the bedroom may be wise. And if you spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen, she recommends taking a break every 20 minutes, to blink 20 times.
It’s known, Wen says, that people blink less when they’re at a computer, driving or performing other sustained visual tasks. So dry eye may become an increasing concern given how much time people spend on computers and phones.