FINANCIAL TIMES INTERVIEWS MTHK
“If the eyes are a window to the soul, sore and itchy eyeballs may give insight into our screen time”
“It’s very unnatural to stare at a screen all day – we haven’t evolved to it,” says Alex Ionides, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital. Factors such as stress, age and lack of sleep can all contribute to our eyes feeling unhappy. But spending hours on a computer is a particular irritant because it messes with our blinking.
“It’s called ‘computer-vision syndrome’ - if you’re looking into a screen, your blink rate can drop from around 18 blinks a minute to 3”
“It’s called ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’,” Ionides continues. “If you’re talking to people in a room, your eyes act and blink normally. If you’re looking into a screen, you subconsciously don’t want to blink because you’re concentrating hard and don’t want to lose focus.” Your blink rate can drop from around 18 blinks a minute to three. And blinking, says Moorfields consultant ophthalmologist Dawn Sim, is a big deal. “Everyone thinks of tears as water,” she tells me. “In fact, the tear film is a beautiful infrastructure composed of three layers: mucin [mucus], aqueous [watery], then a lipid [oily] layer on top. The blink is essential because it spreads a protective coating of these layers across the cornea – the surface of the eyeball.”
Anything that impairs this film plays into the scratchy feeling known as “dry eye”. To help the growing number of sufferers, Ionides and Sim have joined with UCL professor of experimental ophthalmology Marcus Fruttiger to create MTHK Eye Spray. As well as soothing and hydrating the eye with pro-vitamin B5, it contains liposomes to strengthen the lipid layer. “This is critical,” says Ionides. “If the oily layer is impaired, the aqueous layer starts to evaporate.” The spray can be used throughout the day over make-up or contact lenses.
“Essentially, your grandmother was right...eat your carrots – or carotenoids.”
“As with any organ, a healthy diet will also help,” says Ionides. For an extra boost, the MTHK team has launched Eye Vitamins with zinc and B vitamins to support eye function, and extract of Maqui Berry, shown to help symptoms of dry eye. The supplement also contains highly concentrated carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin – the antioxidants in orange vegetables that help protect cells in the retina. While 20th-century cautions against straining the eyes in poor light have turned into those about staring at a flickering screen display, “essentially, your grandmother was right”, says Ionides. “Eat your carrots – or carotenoids.”