If you spend a lot of time using a computer or other devices with screens, you may notice your eyes feel a little dry or itchy afterward. You might even experience some blurry vision or a headache. Turns out, all that screen time has a price. You are more likely to develop an uncomfortable condition that experts often call computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain. And one of the key hallmarks of digital eye strain is dry eye. Your eyes feel dry, and maybe a little scratchy. They may even get a little red and swollen, and you might experience some stinging or burning. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, but you can take steps to address it. Why Your Eyes Are Dry There’s a good reason that computer use can lead to dry eye symptoms. Whether you’re staring at a spreadsheet on your computer or reading the news online, you tend to blink less. In fact, research shows you blink 60% less when you’re gazing at a computer. No wonder your eyes are dry! When your blink rate decreases, you’re not giving your eyes a chance to recover from their exposure to the outside world. When you blink, tears flow across the surface of the cornea, bathing your eye in moisture. The moisture provides a protective barrier for your eyes. When you’re not blinking often enough, you’re skipping that crucial step to protect your eyes and keep them from drying out. How to Prevent Digital Eye Strain You don’t have to give up on screen time altogether; you just have to be aware of your tendency to blink less, and then make yourself blink more frequently. Experts recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Here’s how it works: every 20 minutes, take a break. Shift your eyes away from the screen to focus on something located about 20 feet away. Look at the object for about 20 seconds. Then you can go back to your screen. If you tend to get completely immersed in work, set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you. A few other strategies for reducing digital eye strain, which can lead to dry eye, include: Use a screen filter to reduce glare Use a humidifier in the same room where you’re working Increase the contrast on your computer screen Reposition your computer monitor If you wear contact lenses, you’re at even greater risk of developing dry eye associated with digital eye strain. You could try swapping out your lenses for a pair of glasses, giving your eyes a break. And don’t forget to properly clean and store your lenses when you’re not wearing them. How to Treat Your Dry Eye You know all the ways to reduce the likelihood of developing dry eye. But you may still have dry eye symptoms if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer or other screen. You could try using lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, in your eyes to moisturize them and hopefully reduce the discomfort. Taking breaks, à la the 20-20-20 strategy, can definitely help, too. Limiting your overall screen time can help ward off dry eye as well. But if none of those strategies seem to be doing the job, talk to your eye doctor. You may need to step up your prevention and treatment efforts. You might need to use a lubricating ointment in your eyes at night, try a prescription eye drop, or possibly change some other ways you have set up your computer workstation. Your doctor may also want to perform a comprehensive eye exam, too, just to rule out any other possible contributing factors or undiagnosed conditions that limit healthy tear production.