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Tech

App can predict dry eye in kids

07/09/2018
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A smartphone app that can predict dry eye disease in children has been developed to support healthcare professionals in the UK to diagnose the condition.

The downloadable app, created by researchers from Aston University, is set to become available to GPs and pharmacies, while it can also be used at home. It features a series of questions and a quick test to measure how long a user can comfortably focus on a screen without blinking.

“Dry eye is traditionally considered an old person's disease, but we are increasingly seeing it surface in children,” lead researcher Professor James Wolffsohn said.


"There is a certain irony in using technology to diagnose the ills caused by technology, but sight is a precious sense to protect and our app is an effective way of raising awareness about this persisting and debilitating condition,"
James Wolffsohn, Lead Researcher

“This is likely because of prolonged screen use, which makes us blink less and speeds up the rate our tears evaporate. We need to do more to understand the health implications of children glued to smartphones, tablets and game consoles for hours at a time, which is why we will use our app to launch the first large-scale survey of dry eyes in children.”

Research conducted during the app’s development found that people with dry eye have disrupted tear films that raises the saltiness of tears. This in turn increased the rate tears evaporated from the surface of the eye, making cells more susceptible to damage.

Additionally, they reported that the eye’s surface becomes more susceptible to UV radiation damage when someone has a more ‘salty’ tear film due to dry eye, and that these outcomes increased the need for eye protection and also the importance of treating dry eye disease as early as possible.

“There is a certain irony in using technology to diagnose the ills caused by technology, but sight is a precious sense to protect and our app is an effective way of raising awareness about this persisting and debilitating condition,” Wolffsohn said.

“Our research has the potential to guide people to more appropriate treatment at an earlier stage, and we hope to empower patients to do their bit to reduce the burden on the NHS.”

The Aston research team is part of a cross-European project to support healthcare professionals that generally don't have access to the proper equipment and expertise to confirm a diagnosis of dry eye disease.

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