Childhood isn’t what it used to be. Outdoor play has been replaced with electronics. And as a result, children as young as six are experiencing a painful adult ‘midlife’ eye condition.
Dry eye disease occurs when tear ducts cannot provide adequate lubrication for the eyes. It usually happens in people aged 50 to 60.
Eyes can become sore, red, and sensitive, with some complaining of a burning sensation similar to the effect when chopping onions, according to The Daily Mail.
Experts have warned that children watching screens for long periods can cause the same painful problem, adding that staring at screens for long periods reduces the blink rate and leaves eyes susceptible to drying.
Optometrist and dry eye specialist Sarah Farrant told the Daily Mail that she started seeing primary school-aged children at her practice, Earlam and Christopher, in Somerset in the past few years.
“When I started up my clinic 15 years ago, there was not a single child who turned up with the condition,” she said. “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.”
It’s important to get treatment because dry eye disease can cause lasting damage to some tear-producing glands in the eyelids if left untreated.
Dr. Matthew Olsen, from Thea Pharmaceuticals, a company that creates products to help treat dry eye, said the eye disease had been shown to have 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 added.
Screen time has also been found to have several effects on both health and development among children.