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Could Smartphone Use Lead to Pediatric Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is an inflammatory ocular surface disease caused by tear deficiency. Symptoms of dry eye range from subtle eye irritation and tearing to significant inflammation and even scarring of the front surface of the eye. Risk factors include certain diseases such as diabetes and autoimmune problems, but a recent study suggests that the increased usage of smartphones in adolescents may increase a child’s chance of developing dry eye syndrome.


In 2014, BMC Opthalmology reported the overall rate of smartphone use in Korea was 89.% in children and adolescents. The rate differed according to region and age (rural vs. urban areas) so doctors investigated protective factors associated with pediatric dry eye syndrome in relation to smartphone use rate according to age and region.

The doctors involved in the study enrolled 916 children and performed an ocular exam that included slit lamp exam and tear break-up time. The children and their families were asked about the amount of time the child used a smartphone, participated in outdoor activity, spent time learning, etc. The doctors used this information to perform statistical analysis of risk factors and protective factors in different groups of children.


The results from the study led doctors to the conclusion that smartphone use is highly associated with dry eye syndrome, yet the risk is reduced when children spend an ample amount of time outdoors.


Parents should monitor both the amount of time their children use a smartphone and the amount of time they play outside. Ensure the safety of your child’s eyes by taking them to regular eye exams and limiting the amount of time spent with smartphone or tablet screen.

Read more about the study here.  


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