Too much screen time puts children as young as SIX at risk of 'midlife' eye disease, experts warn

'When I started up my clinic 15 years ago there was not a single child who turned up with the condition,' a dry eye specialist said

Too much screen time puts children as young as SIX at risk of 'midlife' eye disease, experts warn
(Representational Image - Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
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SOMERSET COUNTY, NEW JERSEY: Experts warn children as young as six are facing a 'midlife' eye disease because they spend too much time in front of a screen. There has been an increase in the number of children suffering from dry eye disease, which doctors warn could lead to severe eye damage. Dry eye disease occurs when tears can't provide adequate lubrication for the eyes. 

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The disease normally affects the older generation and is common among 50-60-year-olds. However, doctors are alarmed by the rise in children as young as six suffering from the excruciating eye condition. Patients suffering from the disorder have compared the feeling to that experienced when chopping onions, with a constant burning sensation. Doctors have blamed the rise in extensive screen time as the primary cause.  

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The condition could be extremely painful if left untreated, doctors warn. Symptoms include gritty, sore, red, and sensitive eyes, according to Daily Mail. Sarah Farrant, an optometrist and dry eye specialist, claimed that she has started seeing primary-aged children turn up at her practice at Earlam and Christopher in Somerset with the condition. Farrant puts part of the blame on screen time, as looking at the screen dramatically reduces the blink rate, which could lead to dry eye conditions. 

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Dr Matthew Olsen, from Thea Pharmaceuticals, which creates products to help treat dry eye, said the disease has been shown to have a "huge impact" on quality of life. He added, "We need to raise awareness of the importance of looking after our eyes amongst all age groups."

The number of children who present with the condition has risen drastically, according to specialist Farrant. "When I started up my clinic 15 years ago there was not a single child who turned up with the condition," she told the publication. "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."

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"A prevalence of younger children using make-up could also be fuelling the increase in eye issues," she added. In left untreated in the long term, the condition could severely damage the tear-producing glands in the eyelids.

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