Screen time causing physical damage to young people’s eyes

Have you ever had a staring contest and felt a slight stinging sensation?

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Scientists say an increasing number are showing signs usually seen in much older people. Source: 1 NEWS

That's what Dry Eye Disease, or DED, a condition involving poor tear production can feel like.

Scientists say an increasing number of young New Zealanders are showing the signs of the condition which is usually seen in much older people.

"Up in their teens we see patients complaining about the same signs and symptoms we would normally see in their grandparents," Dr Alex Müntz told 1 NEWS.

Dr Müntz, an Ophthalmology research fellow at the University of Auckland, says one of the main drivers of the condition is electronic devices.

"We're blinking much less, up to 90 per cent less, and we're also blinking incompletely, essentially playing little staring contests with our displays... and losing!" he says.

"If those tears are insufficient or inadequate, that surface will break down and that will cause the surface to dry out and to essentially stimulate those nerves on your eye surface."

The eye does have a high capacity to regenerate superficial damage.

But researchers from the Ocular Surface Laboratory at the University are concerned that over time we could see more chronic, potentially irreversible dry eye disease.

"But what we're finding more recently is there is permanent structural damage in terms of the glands that produce components of the tear film.

“That is something we normally associate with the ageing process, which is why we see it in the ageing population," Dr Müntz says.