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How Dry Eyes Affects Teenagers

Unsurprisingly, dry eye in teenagers is an issue nowadays, especially given how much time teens spend on digital devices and smartphones. Due to the pandemic and online schooling, the vast appeal of digital games, e-sports, and the up-and-coming metaverse, even more time is spent on screens.

It’s well-established that screen time can lead to digital eye strain. Symptoms may include eye irritation, red eyes, and even cloudy vision. Did you know that the effects are cumulative? If screens are put down, and the eyes are given a rest, the eye strain will go away.

The real problems occur when teens ignore the symptoms of digital eye strain, which is so easy to do when deeply absorbed in a video game or binge-watching a series. Who thinks about their eyes when battling monsters, solving puzzles, or while immersed in a show? When people focus intensely on a video game or computer work, they forget to blink. A decreased blink rate leads to dryness and irritation. The irritation will continue, and prolonged use can lead to dry eye in teenagers.

Another factor is blue light, which is emitted from screens. Lab experiments have shown that blue light can damage the retinal cells, possibly due to the shorter wavelengths. These experiments have yet to be tested on eyes, so the information still needs to be more conclusive. It is known that bright lights on the blue spectrum can disrupt melatonin production at night time and lead to restless sleep. The good news is that many devices nowadays have “night modes” that block the blue light in the evenings, which can lead to a better night’s sleep. Blue-blocking glasses can do the same.

If you or your teen notice dry, red, irritated eyes, stop using screens or doing whatever task is irritating you. Figure out how to keep screen use under the threshold of where it causes symptoms, whether by looking away frequently, being mindful about blinking, getting creative with timers for tracking screen use, or blue-blocking apps such as f.lux.

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