KOLD INVESTIGATES: Digital devices could be damaging your child's eyes

KOLD INVESTIGATES: Digital devices could be damaging your child's eyes

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tablets, phones and laptops are a huge part of our daily lives.

And our children are using these digital devices at a younger age than ever before and it could be causing permanent eye damage.

On average, kids spend six hours per day looking at screens. For teenagers, screen time is closer to nine hours each day.

One Tucson eye doctor said something has to change - or our children's eyes will pay the price.

Seventeen-year-old Julian Grusenmeyer spends half of his waking hours looking at a screen.

"I'm on a device most of the time," he said.

Dr. Jeffrey Martin, of Clear View Vision Care, said there is price to pay for all that screen time.

"It's kind of like the perfect storm - they're going to have to deal with the ramifications of this for decades to come," Martin said.

Most associate dry eye with older people, but that's not the case anymore.

"My eyes would start to burn after I was playing for so long," Julian said.

The culprit for Julian and thousands of other kids? Not enough blinking.

"We're asking our eyes to do work we're not built for," Martin said. "Now we know this type of work causes loss to tissue that never regrows, never recovers."

From his office in downtown Tucson, Martin has seen an uptick in young dry eye sufferers like Julian.

"They will always have lived in an age of technology," he said. "They may not even have symptoms until the problem becomes advanced, causing burning and hazy vision."

Martin said drops and medicine can make you feel better, but they don't solve the root of the problem.

The LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System. (Source: Johnson & Johnson)

He said a machine by Johnson & Johnson, called the LipiFlow, can make a difference.

Using heat and tiny pulses, it unclogs hardened oils stuck in glands caused by staring. But it only works if there is some healthy tissue left to salvage.

Julian didn't want to "wait and see" after Martin told him 40 percent of his glands were damaged. The relatively painless procedure only about 15 minutes and Julian had no recovery time.

A simple trick, the 20/20/20 rule, can help save your child's eyes. For every 20 minutes spent on their devices, they should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Even better, they should get up and walk around.

If you use a computer a lot, you should follow the rule too.

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