How Dry Eye Affects Children

Dry eye, a common condition in older adults, develops when your eyes don’t make enough tears, or they produce an inadequate quality of tears. This results in eyes that feel irritated and gritty. Not only do tears make your eyes feel better and moist, they also wash away foreign matter and help to prevent eye infection.

Older adults, mostly women who take medication or who have other health issues, are most likely to have dry eye. Tear production breaks down over the years, so dry eye becomes a natural part of aging. 

However, people of all ages can develop dry eye, including children. In fact, doctors are seeing more cases of dry eye these days in teenagers and young adults

Dry eye symptoms

Dry eye symptoms in children are the same as in adults. The inadequacy of quality of tears or lack of tear production makes your eyes feel dry, itchy, and irritated. Other symptoms may include:

What causes dry eye in children?

In adults, dry eye can be caused by contact lenses, smoking, health conditions such as diabetes and thyroid issues, and certain medications, including antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and birth control pills. 

Some of the causes of dry eye in adults are the same as in children. For example, Sjögren’s syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to dry eye, as can environmental factors such as wind and dry climates. Allergies and eye infections can also increase the risk of dry eye in children and adults. Also, a healthy diet is important for people of all ages.

In many cases, doctors are seeing dry eye connected to prolonged screen time in children and young adults. One study found a strong connection between smartphone use and dry eye in children. Furthermore, the study found that more outdoor activity and less smartphone use was protective against dry eye. 

Dry eye prevention and treatment

The first step in treating and preventing dry eye is to make sure your children’s eyes stay moist and lubricated. One way to do this is to limit their device time. In addition to limiting screen time, you should also encourage them to take breaks from the computer and to blink often. Setting a timer or limits on your child’s smartphone use can help force them to take breaks.

If your child is experiencing dry eye, simple over-the-counter artificial tears can help. If the condition does not resolve with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter drops, your doctor may prescribe a medication to resolve the issue. 

For more information on dry eye diagnosis, symptoms, prevention, and treatment, call for an appointment with one of our pediatric eye specialists at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists PC. We have offices in Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona. You can also request an appointment online, or send the team a message here on our website.

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