To assess the potential effects of switching to online lecture format on dry eye symptoms and dry eye disease (DED) risk factors.
An anonymous cross-sectional online survey was conducted in 812 university students (mean age, 21.5±4.0 years). Participants were classified according to the number of hours the participants took online lectures into online students or in-person students. Respondents completed a total of three DED questionnaires (Ocular Surface Disease Index [OSDI]; 5-item Dry Eye Questionnaire; 8-item Contact Lens Dry Eye Questionnaire) and were surveyed on dry eye risk factors contemplated by the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society Dry Eye Workshop II in addition to other factors potentially linked to dry eye.
Five hundred twenty-three subjects (64.4%) were classified into the online group and 289 (35.6%) into the in-person group. No statistically significant age (P=0.266) or sex (P=0.423) differences were found between groups. Students taking online lectures used the computer more, spent less time outdoors, practised more exercise, wore a face mask for less time, experienced fewer allergies and fewer psoriasis episodes, and obtained a higher OSDI score (P<0.029 for all). Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that the hours of online lectures taken per week was independently associated with having a positive OSDI score (P=0.022).
Taking online lectures is independently associated with having dry eye symptoms. Despite a lower prevalence of DED risk factors, a higher computer use is probably behind the greater ocular dryness reported by online students.