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Shirley Z. Z. Wu, Jillian K. Chong, Nathaniel Tracer, Mengfei Wu, Leela Raju; Prevalence of dry eye symptoms and relationship to screen time in a New York City pediatric population. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(7):340.
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Digital eye strain, which can lead to persistent screen- associated dry eye and ocular symptoms, has been well studied in the adult population. However, despite increased use of digital devices in children, there is a paucity of studies characterizing the relationship of dry eye syndrome to screen use in children. Thus, we sought to determine the prevalence of dry eye in the pediatric population of New York City hospitals to evaluate whether screen time was a risk factor for ocular symptoms.
We performed a cross-sectional study where we distributed questionnaires to parents of children aged 4 to 17 presenting to pediatric clinics at Bellevue Hospital Center and New York University Langone Medical Center. In a single-page survey modified from the Ocular Surface Disease Index, parents were asked whether their child experienced any of 8 dry eye symptoms, whether their child uses a smartphone or tablet, their child’s daily screen time, and the age and sex of their child. Logistic and linear regression analyses were performed to determine the relationship between symptoms experienced and children’s age, sex, smartphone or tablet use and daily hours of screen time.
From 210 complete survey responses, we were able to assess a pediatric population aged 10.4 ± 3.7 that was 56.2% male. The average number of dry eye symptoms reported was 2.5 (SD: 2.4) and hours of daily screen time was found to be a statistically significant predictor of number of symptoms, when controlling for age, sex, and use of a smartphone or tablet (p=0.0036). Furthermore, screen time was observed to be associated with increased odds ratios of experiencing several individual symptoms including tearing (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.10- 2.26, p=0.016), red eyes (OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.10-2.32, p=0.015), eye rubbing (1.55, 95% CI: 1.14-2.11, p=0.005), and headache (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.09-2.05, p= 0.014). By contrast, no statistically significant difference was observed with age, sex, or smartphone or tablet use for these symptoms.
Screen time may represent a significant risk factor for dry eye syndrome in children. Symptoms of tearing, eye redness, eye rubbing and headache may indicate screen time-associated dry eye within the pediatric population. Further clinical studies are needed to determine if reported dry eye symptoms reflect the true burden of treatable ocular surface disease in this population.
This is a 2020 ARVO Annual Meeting abstract.
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