By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Complaints of dry eyes are becoming more common. And today, the patients going to see the eye doctor are younger than in the past. Our addiction to technology appears to be the main cause.

Take Paulina Tran for example. “I am staring at my laptop or my iPad or iPhone almost all day long.”

It wasn’t long before Tran started paying the price for her habits. “I just started getting this dryness in my eyes, almost as if there is like sandpaper. The burning sensation became too much to handle.”

Severe cases of dry eye used to be associated with aging, but ophthalmologists say that just isn’t the case anymore.

“In the past, 90 percent of our patients were over the age of 50 with dry eye symptoms. Now 50% of our patients are 20-30 year olds,” said Dr. Greg Feinerman.

“People are staring at their iPhones, and their laptops and they’re not blinking, which is causing evaporation of tear film. They’re staring at their devices for 12 hour periods and not taking breaks. And that’s causing burning and the tearing and blurry vision,” explained Dr. Feinerman.

Small changes in daily behavior can be a big help, according to Dr. Rachel Bishop of the National Eye Institute. “I advise them to try to position the computer so it’s a little bit lower, their eyes don’t have to be open quite so wide to be looking at the screen comfortably.”

Another suggestion is to follow the “20-20-20” rule. “About every 20 minutes take about a 20 second break, and look off into what we think of as far away, 20 feet. Blink a little, relax your focusing muscle also, and let your eye kind of have a bit of a break. And then go back to your tasks,” said Dr. Bishop.

Artificial tears can also provide some relief. “Look for ones that say lubrication, not other reasons, not looking to get the red out, not look for allergy symptoms,” said Dr. Bishop.



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