Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on eye strain and dry eye symptoms

Ian J. Saldanha, Rebecca Petris, Matthew Makara, Prabjot Channa, Esen K. Akpek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Among adult individuals with dry eye, assess the self-reported impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on (1) dry eye-related visual function, (2) reading efficiency, and (3) dry eye treatments used. Methods: In June–July 2020, we conducted an online survey of adults with dry eye who spent at least somewhat more time at home during the pandemic than before. Consistent with TFOS DEWS II guidelines, we categorized respondents into mild, moderate, or severe dry eye based on treatment usage. Results: We included 388 respondents: 97 respondents (25%) with mild, 80 (21%) with moderate, and 211 (54%) with severe dry eye. In all three groups, screen/reading time generally doubled during the pandemic. Reduced work-related efficiency was noted by a considerable proportion of respondents (moderate dry eye: 51%, mild: 39%, and severe: 38%). Compared with respondents with mild dry eye, respondents with moderate dry eye were considerably more likely to note worsening symptoms: eye pain (OR = 2.57, 95% CI 1.22–5.41), headache from eye symptoms (OR = 2.34, 95% CI 1.11–4.90), and difficulty concentrating because of eye symptoms (OR = 2.79, 95% CI 1.37–5.66). Respondents with moderate dry eye with Sjögren's syndrome were most likely to note these. Respondents with severe dry eye were more likely than respondents with mild dry eye to report losing access to dry eye-related treatments (OR = 2.62, 95% CI 1.36–5.03). Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic-related eye strain may be impacting symptoms, performance, and ultimately employment, especially for those with moderate dry eye. This may be compounding the already-high dry eye-related societal burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-46
Number of pages9
JournalOcular Surface
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Dry eye
  • Eye strain
  • Reading
  • Visual function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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