How does the consumption of ants affect human eyesight?

As if there were a thousand ants in your eyes

The "dry eye" has become a widespread disease. Completely to blame: fine dust pollution, car exhaust fumes, air conditioning, the frequent use of computers and Co. In the USA one speaks of the "office eye syndrome".

Norbert H. (name known to the editors) is 27 and a computer scientist and remembers the feeling that often plagued him. It felt "like sandpaper in the eyes," he says. “It was really bad on days when I sat in front of the computer for ten hours or more. The eyes were tired, reddened, irritated, watered. But only when my eyesight began to deteriorate did I go to an ophthalmologist. ”He made the diagnosis: sicca syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca. The "dry eye" is caused by insufficient production of tear fluid, by too rapid evaporation of the same or its incorrect composition.

Like grains of sand in the eye

Around every second to third patient who visits an ophthalmologist (also) suffers from dry eyes, women more often than men, the age peak is between 40 and 70 years of age. The symptoms correspond to the description of Norbert H: Burning, itching, foreign body sensation, tears. “I have the feeling that grains of sand are rubbing my eyes,” reports Kevin M., 29. And Maria K., 30, says: “I have watery eyes all the time. In addition, the eyes are usually very itchy. ”“ It was as if there were a thousand ants in my eyes, ”says Christine W., 43. These and other case studies are in the book“ Dry eye. Everything about the sicca syndrome ”. "The disease has increased considerably in recent years," says one of the book authors, Dieter Rabensteiner, a doctor at the University Eye Clinic at the Medical University of Graz.

On the one hand, this is due to the increase in fine dust pollution and car exhaust fumes - which also caused sicca syndrome cases to skyrocket. But also the reduction of the ozone layer as well as air conditioning and contact lenses contribute to the development of dry eyes and, of course, also to a large extent the increasing amount of computer work. These and the often too dry indoor climate are truly poison for the eyes. "In the USA people are already talking about office eye syndrome, dry eyes have become a real widespread disease," says Siegfried Priglinger, head of the Smileeyes laser center in Linz.

When staring at the computer, the blink reflex is suppressed. While you normally blink twelve to fifteen times per minute, this number drops to as little as four times per minute for people in front of the screen. With every blink of the eye, however, tear fluid is distributed, which covers the eye as a wafer-thin film of tears and thus supplies it with moisture. If the blinking is stopped, the surface of the eye dries out (see below for more about the role of tears).

In addition to the environment and the computer, an age-related regression of the lacrimal gland tissue and other diseases (e.g. rheumatism, diabetes, psoriasis) are also possible causes of dry eyes. A number of drugs can also cause sicca syndrome. “These include beta blockers, diuretics, but also antidepressants and the contraceptive pill,” says Nikolaus Luft, doctor at the AKH Linz's eye department.

The treatment depends on the severity of the disease, which can be mild to almost unbearable. The therapy classics are tear substitutes in the form of eye drops. "If you have to use tear substitutes frequently, you should use preparations without preservatives," advises Luft. "That is a certain burden, I have to use it up to fifteen times a day," says patient Norbert H. But for him even that is not enough. “I also had my tears sealed.” This is done when there is a pronounced lack of tears, the tears are closed with small stoppers to prevent the small amount of tear fluid from draining away. "This is really just a small treatment, not a matter", reassured Norbert H. Of course there are also more massive interventions.

Fish for the eyes

In certain cases, therapy with serum eye drops is appropriate. Patient H. says: “Like a blood donation, blood is drawn from you and eye drops are obtained from the serum. You just have to do that every few months. ”According to Priglinger, this anti-inflammatory therapy is reserved for more severe cases. Patients with mild sicca syndrome can sometimes help themselves. Among other things, with a health-conscious lifestyle and a balanced, vitamin-rich diet: "Omega3 fatty acids are particularly cheap here, such as fish or linseed oil," advises Luft.

Hot envelopes and clarified butter

Doctor Rabensteiner also recommends special dietary supplements and eyelid rim massages: Dip a small towel or washcloth in boiled, slightly cooled water and make hot compresses on your closed eyes. "After five minutes, gently massage the eyelids with the cloth," says Rabensteiner. If you don't like a washcloth on your eyes: There are already special glasses that warm up (e.g. the Blephasteam thermal glasses). Ayurvedic treatments with clarified butter ghee also help many who suffer from dry eyes.

What helps Norbert H. very well: away from the computer, out of air-conditioned rooms. “When I'm in nature a lot, I often only have to use it two or three times a day instead of fifteen times a day.” But even on office days, one should always keep away from the computer, keep one's eyes closed briefly during breaks or consciously blink.


“Dry eye.Everything about the Sicca Syndrome “, Univ-.Prof. Dr. Andreas Wedrich, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Otto Schmut, Dr. Dieter Rabensteiner, Verlagshaus der Ärzte, 184 pages, € 14.90.

“Healthy eyes despite the computer. How to prevent vision problems and train your eyes. The minute exercise program ”, Leo Angart, Verlag Nymphenburger, 64 pages, € 10.30.

Vienna Eye Day. The 6th Vienna Eye Day will take place on October 8th in the Vienna City Hall, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., free admission. There is an opportunity for free eye examinations, lectures (also specifically about dry eyes), consultations, introductory seminars, roundtables, and questionnaires.

("Die Presse", print edition, 23.08.2015)