Many of us will admit to spending too much time looking at our phones. A recent study has shown that this may be doing more damage to our eyes than previously suspected. In fact, analysis of the study revealed that children who spend more time on their smartphones – a seemingly everyday behavior in this day and age – have a higher tendency to experience “dry eye disease.” And, after a month without their phones, those dry eye symptoms were reduced.
Coincidence… or is there something deeper?
Dry eye disease, as it is known, is a condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce enough “healthy” tears, resulting in symptoms such as red, swollen and irritated eyes. Through typically associated with individuals over the age of 50, this condition – according to many specialists – has gone underdiagnosed in children. Here’s the scoop: A strong association exists between higher smartphone use times and dry eye symptoms, and the more we stare at screens (while not blinking too often), the faster tears evaporate, thus increasing the risk of experiencing dry eyes.
In getting back to the aforementioned BMC Ophthalmology study, it included 916 children between the ages of seven and 12, with more than six-percent of them experiencing dry eyes upon examination. Most of these children admitted to using their smartphones over three hours a day on average, compared to the 37 minutes per day the children who showed no symptoms indulged in the pastime.
In the UK, eye care scientists have actually developed a smartphone app that can quickly tell a health professional (eye doctor) whether the user is suspected of having dry eye disease. Designed by researchers at Aston University and other industry leaders in the United Kingdom, the app can be rolled out across GP surgeries, pharmacies and can even be used at home, and incorporates simple questions with a quick test which measures how long the child can comfortably stare at a screen without blinking.
Still, the overall takeaway from the BMC study is that daytime screen usage should be kept within “healthy” limits (i.e. no screen time an hour before bed, keeping screen time to under two hours at a time) for children and even adults alike. After all, dry eye disease occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when tears evaporate too quickly from the surface, with sufferers constantly feeling as though something is in their eye.
According to a top eye doctor roundup, symptoms can also include vision impairment and sore, watery eyes that cause extreme discomfort.
Because sight is such a precious sense to protect, studies such as the one documented here and efforts like the aforementioned app are effective ways of raising awareness about this persisting and debilitating condition. For more information on dry eye syndrome, as well as dry eye treatment options in Doylestown, contact Matossian Eye Associates today!