Our frequent use of digital devices is affecting our vision, say US health experts.
Our high-tech habits have led to a significant rise in dry eye disease (DED), a survey of US eye-care professionals has found.
Nearly nine out of 10 (89 percent) of eye care professionals (ECPs) who took part in the National Eye CARE (Current Attitudes Related to Eye Health) Survey in the United States believe our modern, multi-screen lifestyle (ie daily use of mobile, tablet and computer screens) is partly to blame.
The survey was carried out online by pollsters Harris who surveyed more than 1,000 ECPs (optometrists and ophthalmologists), and more than 1,200 American adults with dry eye symptoms.
While women aged 50 and older are still most likely to be affected by DED, ECPs surveyed also say the regular use of modern technology is changing the face of the condition, with a higher number of younger patients aged 18-34 (76 percent) affected compared to 10 years ago.
“Many adults aren’t familiar with the key symptoms of DED, and wait years between symptom onset and seeking medical advice,” says leading US ophthalmologist Marguerite McDonald.
“It’s important that all adults talk to an ECP right away if they notice changes in their eyes. While age and female gender continue to be significant risk factors for DED, our screen-dependent lifestyle has led to a noticeable shift, with more young adults presented with dry eye symptoms than in years past.”
DED is an inflammatory disease of the ocular surface that is often chronic and may be progressive. The disease is commonly associated with dryness and overall eye discomfort, as well as stinging, burning, a gritty feeling or episodes of blurred vision.
Based on the survey results, adults with dry eye symptoms (64 percent) ranked sight as the sense that’s most important to them yet most (55 percent) said that they did not give much thought to their eye care until they started experiencing dry eye symptoms.
Adults who took part in the survey said they typically waited two years between the onset of symptoms and seeking medical advice. This may have been because about half (49 percent) dismissed them as a normal part of ageing, and approximately one in three (32 percent) didn’t understand that there was a potential risk of long-term damage to their eyes. But, nearly three in five (57 percent) said they wished they had spoken to an ECP sooner.) say they wish they had spoken to an ECP sooner.
Adults with DED symptoms said they were affected in several ways throughout their day. Specifically, most people said the condition impaired their ability to spend time onscreen (75 per cent), indulge in hobbies (68 per cent), and work (54 per cent). Many said symptoms caused irritation (57 per cent), fatigue (46 per cent), and/or frustration (42 per cent). In addition, 43 per cent said their dry eye symptoms kept them from what they wanted to be doing.
Visit myeyelove.com to learn more about dry eye, including how to recognise symptoms, typical risk factors, and useful tips on how to discuss symptoms with a doctor or eye care professional.
An estimated 30 million Americans regularly report symptoms consistent with dry eye*. According to data presented at the 2016 American Society of Cataract and Refractory Surgery, approximately 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with DED by a health care professional.
* Based on a dry eye prevalence of 14.5 per cent from the 2014 BOSS (Beaver Dam Offspring Study) of self-reported symptoms and the 2014 US Census estimate of adults ages 25 to 84 years.