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Dry Eyes in Kids: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment Options

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A studious girl rubbing her eyes.

With an increasing number of children spending extended hours in front of digital screens, the issue of dry eyes in pediatric patients seems to be gaining prominence. Whether it’s the dry, conditioned air in many classrooms or their new best friend, the tablet, our kids’ eyes are under more stress than those of past generations. 

Understanding the causes of dry eyes and recognizing the symptoms, like watery eyes or excessive rubbing, is crucial for understanding which treatment options to explore for your child’s eye health and comfort.

It’s important to note that the treatment for dry eye can be as varied as its potential causes. If home remedies like child-safe lubricating eye drops or adjusting humidity levels don’t help, you should book your child an eye exam with their eye doctor.

Understanding Dry Eye

Dry eye or dry eye syndrome is a common condition marked by a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture in the eye. This insufficient lubrication can come from a lack of tear production, or the eyes may produce poor-quality tears.

Symptoms of Dry Eye in Children

When a child’s eyes fail to produce enough tears or high-quality tears, the result can be discomfort ranging from mild irritation to more severe symptoms, such as light sensitivity and even vision problems. What’s alarming is that kids might not communicate the issue, and the symptoms could be easily brushed off. Common dry eye symptoms to watch for include:

Red & Itchy Eyes

Kids—especially when having fun on the playground—rarely complain until the discomfort becomes unbearable. Parents should look out for signs like frequent eye rubbing, a seemingly perennial eye redness, or aversion to bright lights, which might indicate something’s bothering those peepers.

Excessive Tearing

It seems strange, doesn’t it? Well, the body is a remarkable, albeit sometimes confused, machine. The eyes might produce excessive tears to counteract the dryness.

Blurry Vision School Report Can’t Explain

While a single instance of blurry vision might not be alarming, if it’s recurring, it could point to potential dry eye issues. Vision blurring could be a symptom of eye fatigue associated with dryness, whether the person struggles to focus in a classroom’s dry environment or when facing digital screens.

Additionally, blurry vision could also indicate a refractive error like myopia. Ongoing blurry vision should warrant a visit to the eye doctor.

Uncovering Causes & Triggers

The detective work doesn’t stop at mere recognition of symptoms. It’s imperative to consider the causes that set this condition into motion. There are several avenues to explore that could be particularly common among children:

Environmental Triggers

Air conditioning, heating, and the dry, dusty world outside your door can all contribute to dry eyes. Modern classroom environments, often with their artificially controlled atmospheres, can be particularly aggressive culprits.

Digital Device Dependence

Kids are learning and engaging through screens at a rapidly increasing rate. The more they stare, the less they blink, which can disrupt the tear film’s balance, leading to dryness and irritation. In addition to the potential of dry eyes, the increased screen time can lead to digital eye strain. This eye strain can contribute to dry eyes, among other symptoms.

Addressing Dry Eyes in Kids

The treatment approaches can be as simple as changing a lightbulb to prescription medications to restore a healthier ocular environment for the little ones.

Lubricating Eye Drops

Artificial tears might be all it takes to moisturize those eyes. These over-the-counter drops can offer a quick fix to a dry eye day. Many brands are safe for children, but it’s critical to confirm this when using any eye drops in a child’s eyes.

Medications & Therapies

Prescription medications or in-office dry eye therapies might be necessary in more severe cases or when dry eyes are a symptom of an underlying condition. These interventions require professional diagnosis and management.

Getting Kids On-Board with Eye Health

A significant part of treating dry eyes in children is making sure that they understand the importance of their eye health. Education about proper eye care can go a long way in preventing and managing this condition in the long run. It’s also important to encourage them to communicate when they’re experiencing any uncomfortable symptoms.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing dry eyes starts with awareness and action. Here’s a list of preventative strategies to safeguard your child’s eyesight:

Screen Time Management

Set reasonable limits on screen time. Encourage breaks to rest the eyes, even if for a few minutes, and make sure the child blinks regularly while engaged.

Optimal Hydration & Nutrition

A well-hydrated body is more likely to produce well-hydrated tears. Make sure your child gets enough water and consider foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and flaxseed, which can help maintain eye health.

The Importance of Eye Checks

Regular eye exams can catch potential issues before they become full-blown problems. Your child’s eye doctor can offer valuable advice and custom prevention strategies tailored to the child’s needs.

A girl in her pyjamas drinking water from a glass.

The Future of Our Youth’s Eye Health

Dry eyes in kids are not just a result of modern times—it’s a call to action to balance their digital lives with healthy eye habits. No parent or guardian wants to see their child in discomfort, and with the right knowledge and practices, we can help shield our kids’ eyes from the dryness that robs them of their everyday vitality. 

Call our team at Total Vision Campbell to book an exam for your child. One of our experienced optometrists can examine their eyes and offer an effective treatment and dry eye prevention plan.

Written by Total Vision

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