When Children Suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome
Bring Your Kids to Our Eye Doctor for Dry Eye Treatment!
Most people associate dry eye with middle-aged adults, typically women. Yet in fact, dry eye is currently one of the most common complaints we hear from all our patients. With an estimate of nearly 5 million people in the United States suffering from dry eye syndrome, that makes perfect sense! Of this huge number, children comprise a small percentage of the sufferers.
Although the condition is rarer in kids, it is just as painful and irritating for our younger patients. In order to determine the best dry eye treatment for each individual, our caring and knowledgeable optometrists will perform a thorough and gentle eye exam on both adults and kids of all ages.
Effects of Dry Eye on Kids
Dry eye syndrome can make it challenging for kids to perform well in school. Burning, itchy and irritated eyes, along with blinking, interfere with focusing in the classroom. Regular daily activities, such as reading, using a computer, and playing sports become extremely challenging for children with dry eyes.
What causes dry eye in children?
A range of reasons can be responsible for your child’s dry eyes.
- Severe allergies, with antihistamine use
- Contact lens wear
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye) or its treatment can lead to dry eyes
- Nutritional deficiency - low intake of omega-3 fatty acids or Vitamin A
- Extended use of phones, tablets, iPads and other digital devices
- Reduced blinking - this is worse when using computers or reading
How do we diagnose kids with dry eye?
Just like adults, kids need to be tested for dry eye to reach a firm diagnosis. In addition, we use the information from diagnostic procedures to help design the most effective dry eye treatment plan.
We use a test called Tear Breakup Time to evaluate the tear film. During this procedure, our optometrist will use a special dye to check the rate at which tears evaporate from the eye. This is a direct way to assess tear quality.
Eye Allergies & Dry Eye
Some children are allergic to typical airborne irritants, such as pollen, dust, mold and pet dander. In addition, cosmetics and some brands of artificial tears can also be bothersome. When your kid’s eyes come into contact with the one of these allergens, their eyes may become swollen, red, itchy and dry.
It is always best to avoid the specific allergen, if known. Yet, we know avoidance isn’t always possible. If your child suffers from eye allergies and the annoying symptoms of dry eye, our eye doctors can help.
Not all eye drops are created equal. Antihistamine eye drops and even some specific kinds of artificial tears can lead to dry eyes in some people. If this happens, we will evaluate your child’s condition to recommend an alternate treatment.
Dry Eyes & Technology
One of the first questions we ask kids who present symptoms of dry eye syndrome is about screen time. As digital devices become more affordable, the number of kids with a device in their hand (for hours each day!) has grown exponentially. Many schools even provide their students with iPads or laptop computers. The downside to having high-tech children is that health problems often arise, such as dry eyes or digital eye strain.
Regardless of whether your kid is reading, watching, texting or gaming, staring at an electronic screen causes the eyes to dry out. When this happens, our eye doctors may advise lubricants to restore moisture to the eye. We also encourage kids (and their parents) to take a break at least every half-hour, in order to rest the eyes. Remembe the 20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break.
Treating Your Child’s Dry Eye at Home
Many actions can be taken at home to alleviate dry eyes. Some helpful suggestions include:
- Have your child wear sunglasses. This protects against wind, dust and the drying sun.
- Use a humidifier in your kid’s room. Make sure you clean it regularly.
- Do not place a fan near your child’s bed.
- If your child wears contact lenses, supply him or her with rewetting drops
- Use artificial tears regularly – without preservatives if possible.
- Avoid smoking or second hand smoke
- Place a warm compress on your kid’s eyelids gently every day (for about five minutes); this helps increase natural tear production.
In addition to trying these tips, it’s a smart move to bring your kid for a professional eye exam. Our optometrists have experience in treating kids with dry eyes. We’ll work with your child patiently to restore comfortable eyesight.
Even more than the latest smartphone, vision is one of your child’s greatest possessions and needs to be cared for properly!