Dry eye is a frequently reported problem among computer users. Low relative humidity environments are recognized to exacerbate signs and symptoms of dry eye, yet are common in offices of computer operators. Desktop USB-powered humidifiers are available commercially, but their efficacy for dry eye relief has not been established.
This study aims to evaluate the potential for a desktop USB-powered humidifier to improve tear-film parameters, ocular surface characteristics, and subjective comfort of computer users.
Forty-four computer users were enrolled in a prospective, masked, randomized crossover study. On separate days, participants were randomized to 1 hour of continuous computer use, with and without exposure to a desktop humidifier. Lipid-layer grade, noninvasive tear-film breakup time, and tear meniscus height were measured before and after computer use. Following the 1-hour period, participants reported whether ocular comfort was greater, equal, or lesser than that at baseline.
The desktop humidifier effected a relative difference in humidity between the two environments of +5.4 ± 5.0% (P < .001). Participants demonstrated no significant differences in lipid-layer grade and tear meniscus height between the two environments (all P > .05). However, a relative increase in the median noninvasive tear-film breakup time of +4.0 seconds was observed in the humidified environment (P < .001), which was associated with a higher proportion of subjects reporting greater comfort relative to baseline (36% vs. 5%, P < .001).
Even with a modest increase in relative humidity locally, the desktop humidifier shows potential to improve tear-film stability and subjective comfort during computer use.
Trial registration no: ACTRN12617000326392.