A recent report of two women who temporarily lost sight in one eye after reading their smartphones while lying in bed shouldn’t cause alarm, experts say. But the incidents do point to the importance of using digital devices smartly to avoid eye strain.
The women lost vision for up to 20 minutes in one eye after reading their phones in the dark while lying in bed with the other eye covered by a pillow, researchers wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Gordon Plant of Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London said that the eye reading the phone was adapted to the light, while the covered eye was adapted to the dark. When the women put their phone down, they couldn’t see with their reading eye. “It’s taking many minutes to catch up to the other eye that’s adapted to the dark,” Plant said. People should look at their phones with both eyes, he advised.
The researchers called the condition “transient smartphone blindness.” They said that it is likely to become more common, because phone manufacturers are making brighter screens for easier reading.
Dr. Rahul Khurana, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said that he doesn’t consider this a serious problem. He noted it is not an official medical condition, and needs more study.
Take steps to protect your eyes when reading on your phone
There are steps you should take to protect your eyes when reading your phone. Staring at your phone can make your eyes feel dry and tired. You may develop fatigue, blurry vision or eye strain. That’s because people blink much less when using digital screen devices such as smartphones and computers.
When using a smartphone, computer or other digital device:
- Use the “20-20-20” rule to avoid eye strain: Take a break every 20 minutes. Shift your eyes toward an object that’s at least 20 feet away. Look at the object for at least 20 seconds.
- When your eyes feel dry, refresh them with artificial tears.
- To make it easier for your eyes to see, adjust the lighting in your room so your screen is not much brighter than the surrounding light. Also try increasing the contrast on your screen.
Get an eye exam if your eyes are regularly red, watery or blurry, or if your eyes become painful or sensitive to light.
It is far more common to be nearsighted today than ever.
According to a study by the National Eye Institute, the occurrence of myopia in America, which is the medical name for the condition, has soared by 66 percent since the early 1970s. Even more surprising is the fact that in China and other East Asian countries, as many as 90 percent of recent high school graduates are thought to be nearsighted.
Nearsightedness or myopia occurs when the eyeballs are longer than normal. This changes the angle at which light enters the eye and negatively affects the ability to focus on distant objects. Myopia usually begins before adolescence when the eye is growing and involves a complex interplay of genetics and environment. This condition often worsens during early adulthood.
Many make the assumption that the elevated rates of myopia are related to the many hours young people stare at computers and other screens. However, a recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology suggests that a greater factor may be a side effect of all that screen-watching; today’s children spend much more time indoors. A growing body of research indicates that the shape of the human eye can be influenced by a lack of direct sunlight.
At King’s College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and other institutions, researchers provided vision exams to more than 3,100 older European men and women. They also asked them about their education, careers and how often they remembered being outside during various stages of their lives. The researchers took the information and cross-referenced it with historical data about sunlight.
The researchers found strong correlations between current eyesight and volunteers’ lifetime exposure to sunlight, above all UVB radiation (which is responsible for burning). The study participants who had been exposed to the most sun, particularly between the ages of 14 and 19, were approximately 25 percent less likely to have developed myopia by middle age. They found that exposure to sunlight up to the age of 30 also provided a protective benefit.
The study was not a true experiment, so it could not determine whether too little sunlight actually causes myopia, nor could it explain the connection. However, one researcher concluded this: “People with myopia have long eyeballs, so there must be something in sunlight that affects how the eye grows, especially in childhood.”
Sunlight can also have harmful impacts on the eyes. Sun exposure can increase the risks of developing cataracts. It is believed that by taking the appropriate cautions, including the avoidance of midday sunlight, young people should be able to reduce those risks while potentially bolstering their vision. The researchers found that there is definitely something in today’s childhood that is causing a massive rise in the number of people that are nearsighted, and they feel that the lack of time outdoors is a contributing factor.
Adapted from New York Times and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
A recent Harris Poll found that nearly two out of three American adults report having medical eye issues or vision problems. The majority of them fail to have medical eye exams that could possibly save their sight.
The Harris Poll, commissioned by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, showed that 64 percent of adults had at least one of these problems with their eyes or vision:
- Blurred vision
- Trouble seeing at night
- Double vision
- Experiencing flashes of light
- Problems reading up close
- Symptoms of red or watery eyes
Ophthalmologists are committed to helping people maintain healthy eyes and vision as they age. “It is very important to see an ophthalmologist for any medical eye issues,” says Neal A. Sher, MD, FACS. “Just like the rest of our body, our eyes are impacted with age and they deserve the highest level of care. Common age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, can begin to steal your vision before you even realize it.”
“Regular dilated eye exams are important for catching problems before vision loss occurs. These regular eye exams can prevent potentially blinding eye disease and should be part of a patient’s overall health maintenance plan.”
Article adapted from the AAO.org website.
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