• The Associated Press

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As many as three out of four people sitting in front of computers or similar video screens for long periods of time could be suffering from so-called dry eye, a syndrome that can impair vision in severe cases, a recent study showed.

Of 1,025 adult Japanese office workers studied by the Japan Ophthalmologists Association, 31.2 percent had dry, bloodshot or worn-out eyes, a report issued by the professional group says. Another 43.8 percent showed signs of developing the condition.

Workers surveyed were staring at computer screens for an average of 5.2 hours a day, and the report blames the long hours for contributing to their eye fatigue.

“Due to the rapid spread of the Internet, personal computers, and video games, more people have been spending more time in front of video display terminals and overworking their eyes,” says the report released Sept. 18.

Dry eye symptoms include reddish, bloodshot eyes, a dry sensation or frequent tearing. The eye doctor association said the condition is increasingly being studied as a cause of eye damage among office workers.

Women wearing contact lenses had a higher incidence, with 85.7 percent of those in the study being either confirmed or suspected of having dry eye.

The study found many of the workers with dry eye said they were able to tolerate their symptoms and thus never sought treatment.

Severe cases of dry eye syndrome can impair the ability to read, work and drive, but they do not usually cause blindness, doctors say. The group said those suffering from the condition should rest and see a doctor.

The association estimates 8 million Japanese may have dry eye. There are an estimated 10 million Americans with dry eye, according to the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston.

The Japanese study did not provide a margin of error for its findings or give comparative figures for cases of dry eye among people not working with video screens. It also did not give comparative past dry eye figures.

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