With the popularity of video games and online activities, dry eye is becoming increasingly prevalent in children and teens glued to their screens. The condition can cause permanent eye damage.
But, now there’s an app for that.
Professor James Wolffsohn is an optometrist at Aston University in Britain who has noticed something troubling.
“What we’re beginning to see is now with the use particularly of screens, digital screens, tablets, smartphones that even children are reporting dry eyes,” he said.
Tears contain oil, Wolffsohn explained, and your eyes should always have a thin layer of tears.
“The tear film on the front of your eye is there all the time not just when you cry. It’s less than the tenth of the thickness of a human hair, but without it you probably wouldn’t see at all,” he said.
That’s because, without tears, your eyes would dry up, likely get infected or scratched. With kids spending more and more time in front of a screen, many are at risk for developing dry eyes.
“When you concentrate very hard on a task such as on a computer screen, you blink less, and also instead of fully blinking you partially blink and so what’s happening is damage is being done to the front of the eye,” Wolffsohn said.
When tears aren’t being produced, they evaporate and leave behind their salty content, which can do further damage to your eyes.
But now, there’s a smartphone app that can diagnose dry eyes. People tested it at a demonstration in London. The app asks some simple questions and tests how long you can comfortably stare at a screen without blinking.
Wolffsohn notes the irony of using an app on the very device that is causing the problem.
“We’re actually using the technology that potentially could cause problems, if you use a lot of it, to actually help us with the diagnosis,” he said.
Doctors say even if you don’t have the app, you can protect your eyes by simply remembering to blink when you’re in front of a screen. And you should remind your kids to do the same.