Visual function and tear film quality may diminish significantly with prolonged computer use, according to a study published in Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. These changes, which are accompanied by an increase in dry eye symptomatology, do not affect visual acuity, according to the report.

Researchers enrolled 80 participants in the cross-sectional, case-controlled clinical study, which included individuals who spend a majority of their work day using computers (mean, 7.7 hours; mean age, 28 years; 62.5% women) and control group participants who do not spend a significant amount of time engaged in daily computer activities (mean, 0.1 hours; mean age, 26 years; 75% women). The team assessed dry eye symptoms using the Quality of Vision (QOV) questionnaire, 5-item Dry Eye Questionnaire (DEQ-5), and Symptom Assessment in Dry Eye version II (SANDE II).

Study participants underwent tear film surface quality (TFSQ), TSFQ area, and automatic tear break-up time (TBUT) measurements, high, low and total ocular aberration assessment, and visual performance evaluation, which included photopic and mesopic visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and light disturbance measurements. The investigators examined visual function and tear film quality during a baseline morning visit and follow-up evaluation at the end of the work day among the 2 cohorts. 

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Individuals who performed extensive computer work during the day reported poorer DEQ-5, QoV, and SANDE II scores at the end of the work day compared with control group participants (P ≤.02). They also exhibited other worsened visual function and tear film parameters, including TFSQ and TFSQ area at the 1-day conclusion compared with baseline (P ≤.04). No significant alterations in TBUT (P =0.19) or ocular aberrations (P ≥.09) were noted throughout the course of the day. 

Light disturbance (P ≤.04) and mesopic and photopic contrast sensitivity at several spatial frequencies (P ≤.04) worsened among the computer workers’ cohort from baseline, but visual acuity did not change (P ≥.07). Control group individuals showed no decrease in any visual function or tear film variable throughout the day.

“Overall, the disruption of the tear film resulting from sustained gaze associated with computer use may have degraded subjective visual quality in computer users,” according to the researchers. “[T]he lower quality of vision reported throughout the day by frequent computer users in the present study was anticipated, and may be attributable not only to a decline in tear film quality but also to accommodative stress.”

Study limitations include a single center design, short study duration, failure to blind examiners to computer worker status, and the recruitment of volunteers, which may have drawn individuals with visual function and tear film disruptions to the investigation.  


Talens-Estarelles C, Mechó-García M, McAlinden C, Cerviño A, García-Lázaro S, González-Méijome JM. Changes in visual function and optical and tear film quality in computer usersOphthalmic Physiol Opt. Published online April 19, 2023. doi:10.1111/opo.13147

This article originally appeared on Optometry Advisor