From online content to fiction and nonfiction books, there’s never been more text out there for you to enjoy. But are you experiencing dry eyes, eye fatigue, or eye muscle strain after reading?

Read on to find out whether reading and dry eye disease can occur together and just how big an impact reading can have on this condition.

We’ll also share with you tips on how to reduce eye strain when reading even when you’re experiencing severe eye strain.

Can Reading Cause Dry Eyes?

Reading over extended periods can reduce your blinking rate and lead to more incomplete blinks, just as staring at a screen can. A 2019 paper published in The Ocular Surface journal has associated blinking pattern changes with mild to moderate dry eye disease.

In other words, reading can contribute to mild dry eyes just as it can contribute to eye muscle strain, including eye strain in one eye.

man with a tired expression reading a book before a windo

But it’s important to remember that more severe dry eyes or chronic dry eyes is often a condition with serious and multiple underlying causes. From meibomian gland dysfunction to autoimmune conditions, hormonal changes, eye surgery, and even poor nutrition, dry eyes has many risk factors.

You can read more about the causes and risk factors of dry eye disease in our post on 13 Risk Factors for Dry Eyes.

Can Reading Make Dry Eyes Worse?

A 2018 clinical study involving 177 dry eye patients and 34 normal controls investigated the effects of prolonged reading on dry eye disease.

Researchers used the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaire and other eye tests to assess the tear film and ocular surface of the participants. They then asked participants to read a story for at least 30 minutes, after which they repeated the tests.

Researchers found that reading had a notable effect on the ocular surface parameters and concluded that symptoms of dry eye disease caused by reading often go undetected. The bottom line is that reading can worsen dry eye symptoms.

Reading text on a digital screen could strain your eyes even more, according to the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Your blink rate may drop by as much as 50% when you read a text on a computer or phone compared to when you’re talking with someone.

man with curly hair and orange shirt reading on a tablet

However, this doesn’t mean that if you’re living with dry eye disease you should stop reading.

How to Remain a Reader Even When You’re Living with Dry Eye Disease

You can continue to enjoy reading with dry eye disease provided you follow a few proactive steps. Constant dry eyes is less likely to occur if you do the following.

Take Constant Breaks

Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds or longer. This is the 20-20-20 rule, a simple way to help your eyes blink more and replenish the tear film.

You should also try to incorporate other breaks into your reading session – every now and then, get up from your chair and take a few steps.

Even better, drink a glass of water to stay hydrated. If you tend to forget yourself reading, you may want to set a reminder to take a break.

Try Audiobooks

In the periods when your dry eye is at its worst, you could give your eyes a break without giving up on your favorite stories or non-fiction books by listening to an audiobook.

Whether you’ve listened to dozens of audiobooks already or never tried one, audiobooks can provide a convenient way to enjoy books without the eye strain that comes with prolonged reading.

Use an Ebook Reader

Ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle have e-ink displays. These don’t have a reflective screen and don’t produce glare when sunlight strikes them. You may find it easier to read on an ebook reader than on the screen of your phone or computer, which may cause screen fatigue.

hand holding ebook reader over stretched legs lying in a hammock with trees and greenery in the background

Some devices also have a warm light option, which comes in handy if you’re sensitive to blue light. Another benefit of ebook readers is that they let you adjust the font size. If you have difficulties reading small text or find it tiring, ebook readers can make a big difference.

Enable Text to Speech

Many mobile devices and computers provide a text to speech feature. This may be available through a built-in app or else through a web browser or third-party app.

Text to speech may sound a bit robotic. It may lack the energy and flow of human narrators. But it’s a handy way to absorb information when you feel like taking a break from reading.

As we’ve seen, reading on a computer can be especially tiring. Text to speech can help reduce digital eye strain and better manage moderate to severe dry eyes.

Take an Eye Health Supplement

Your eyes need a steady supply of nutrients to produce good quality tears and stay healthy. But today’s busy lifestyle can make it difficult for you to get enough of these nutrients through your diet.

Carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene occur in fruits and vegetables. So do essential eye vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, or vitamin E. Your eyes also need omega-3 fatty acids.

A natural, plant-based eye health supplement like SightC or Blueberry Monk Fruit Gummies can help supply many of these nutrients. They are easy to take and support the functioning of your tear glands while protecting your eyes from oxidative damage. Taken regularly, they can help keep your eyes healthy in the digital age.

The Moderate Dry Eye Relief Bundle brings together SightC with the Blueberry Monk Fruit Gummies in a healthy and delicious combination.

Relieve dry eye symptoms with the Moderate Dry Eye Relief Bundle.

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