Dry eye disease or dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, occurs when the tear ducts are unable to provide adequate liquid or lubrication for the eyes. This condition commonly affects people between the ages of 50 to 60, and if left untreated can become an extremely painful condition. If it worsens, symptoms can include gritty, sore, red and sensitive eyes. (Related: Many people fully vaccinated for COVID are now going BLIND.)
People who suffer from dry eye disease have spoken of a constant sensation of burning, similar to the experience of chopping onions.
Dr. Matthew Olsen of British ophthalmological care company Thea Pharmaceuticals, which helps create products to treat dry eye disease, said the condition has a "huge impact" on quality of life. "We need to raise awareness of the importance of looking after our eyes amongst all age groups," he said.
Excessive screen time does just more than affect the vision of children. Last month, scientists noted that blue light emitted from phones and tablets at night may trigger early puberty.
One of the authors, Dr. Aylin Kilinic Ugurlu from Ankara City Hospital in Turkey, said data strongly suggests that blue light exposure should be limited.
Other studies have pointed out that there are numerous concerns about the long-term effect gadget use has on mental and physical health. One such study found that primary school-aged children miss out on the equivalent of a night's sleep a week due to bedtimes being delayed by excessive gadget use.
Sarah Farrant, an optometrist and dry eye specialist who runs a practice in the Earlam and Christopher clinic in Somerset, England, has blamed the condition on children having too much screen time – either in front of a television, a smartphone, a tablet or a computer.
"When I started up my clinic 15 years ago, there was not a single child who turned up with the condition," said Farrant. "But in the past five or six years, I've been seeing more and more children with dry eye. My youngest patient was six, which used to be unheard of."
Farrant claims looking at screens for longer periods of time dramatically reduces a child's blink rate, which leads to lower eye lubrication and can develop into dry eye disease.
Recent research has shown that the time children spend looking at screens is vastly exceeding global guidelines. The World Health Organization and many pediatric societies all over the world strongly recommend that infants younger than two should not spend any time looking at screens at all. Children between the ages of two and five should only spend one hour a day looking at screens.
Writing in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Pediatrics, scientists from the University of Calgary in Canada explained: "Given how many children exceed screen-time guidelines, industry elimination of ads from programming and apps directed at children, would support healthier outcomes."
"Digital media are now a regular part of young children's lives, and supporting families to best fit evidence-based recommendations into their daily routines needs to be a priority," the statement continued.
The researchers and pediatricians also noted that children aged two to five who were limited to using screens for just two hours per day were more likely to meet guidelines for screen usage than if they forced their kids to only use screens for one hour a day.
The researchers noted that the finding that a higher proportion of children can meet the two-hours-per-day guideline express how important this is. It suggests that for many families with young children glued to the screens of their phones, televisions, tablets and computers, they only need to implement minor adjustments and be strict about enforcing these adjustments in order to meet the recommended health guidelines and to preserve the eye health of their children.
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