Dry eyes: when technology is the enemy

Dry eyes occur when tears are unable to provide sufficient moisture for the eyes. The reason for this may be insufficient production of tears or production of poor-quality tears. Sub-par or altered production of tears (Hypolacrimia and dryness) reduces attention and concentration causing difficulties when performing even the simplest tasks. In turn, this impairs overall quality of life. At the base of a lacrimal dysfunction there is a presence of an unstable lacrimal film, which is caused by an altered quantity, quality or diffusion of the different components of tears. Dr. Carlo Frontini, an ophthalmologist at Humanitas Mater Domini, explains the causes and symptoms of this condition.

Symptoms of dry eyes

Prolonged use of computers and similar technology may affect the eyes and cause symptoms and sensations such as discomfort, eye fatigue and frequent itching. This is referred to as “dry eyes syndrome.” It is a very common condition with increasing prevalence in recent years. Other common symptoms of the condition include burning, photophobia, redness, clouding of vision, physical eye pain, and foreign body perception. Therefore, one must not underestimate the factors that may cause or contribute to this condition such as inflammation of the eyelids, prolonged computer use, consumption of certain medications and exposure to extreme sunlight and wind.

People tend to blink with a decreased frequency when focusing on activities that heavily rely on eye sight such as reading, writing, computer use, and driving. These activities deprive the eyes of an essential renewed layer of tear film. The lacrimal or tear film (liquid) is renewed with each blink and it is composed of three layers: deep mucous, intermediate aqueous and lipid surface. They cover the ocular surface, or the part of the eye that is in contact with the atmosphere (the air, including pollutants or allergens) – explains Dr. Carlo Frontini.

The importance of tears

Dr. Frontini emphasizes the importance of an intact and healthy lacrimal film for eye health mainly due to its functions: lubricant, protective cover, and dioptre. Furthermore, the tear film is essential for defense against eye infections, nutrition of the corneal epithelium as well as the protection from physical and chemical harm.

Continuous damage of the lacrimal film results in a condition of chronic inflammation over time, which leads to self-preservation of the problem, increasingly worsening it. Thus, particular attention should be paid when using home remedies and over-the-counter medications to treat dry eyes because some components of certain eye drops may not help resolve the problem and in fact, may be harmful when used continuously.

“A visit to an eye specialist may be necessary to estimate the damage and the severity of the alteration, to assess the cause of the discomfort and to establish the proper treatment. This can enable the patient to live free from a problem that is often misunderstood and underestimated, and limits the quality of life.” – concludes the specialist.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.