Is your smartphone damaging your vision?

Is your smartphone damaging your vision?

It is almost impossible to walk down the street nowadays without seeing somebody playing with their smartphone or making a call.

Even if you do manage to walk more than a few hundred yards down the high street without seeing evidence of smartphone use, chances are that you will have seen them advertised in a shop window on the way, such is their impact on the modern world.

While they can prove an invaluable tool for many people thanks to their wide-ranging capabilities, recent research has emerged suggesting that the devices may not be having a solely positive impact on people.

Many experts have noted that the continuing rise in the number of people – especially youngsters – suffering from vision problems may be linked to the proliferation of handheld technology.

They suggest staring at a tiny, backlit screen and then having to refocus and use natural light to observe their surroundings when they look up may be leading to an increase on eyesight problems and, subsequently, the use of glasses and contact lenses.

Dr Jacob Liberman, writing for the Huffington Post recently, said that people"s eyes are supposed to operate "seamlessly" at both near and far distances as, from an anthropological perspective, this is to detect distant predators and nearby prey.

However, evolution and technological advancement has meant that modern society has diminished the ability to see as far, according to the expert, who is the author of the books "Light: Medicine of the Future, Take Off Your Glasses" and "See and Wisdom from an Empty Mind".

He says that, by constantly "poring over" PDAs and keeping the eyes in an "over-focused, cramped position", people have unwittingly brought about a major increase in visual deterioration.

The expert pointed to recent figures from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which showed that computer-related eyestrain affects 90 per cent of people who spend three or more hours a day in front of a screen.

When juxtaposed against the 175 million people who wear glasses or contact lenses in the US alone and the estimated 65 per cent of the world"s population that requires visual correction, there may be a correlation, Dr Liberman noted.

He wrote on the website: "Most experts agree that the visual confinement created by spending time indoors, reading and working at computers is a major contributor to the progression of myopia.

"Now imagine the further compression of our visual field when we spend leisure time - while our eyes are meant to relax and take in "the bigger picture" - texting, checking emails and playing games on our handheld devices."

As people would never normally ignore a physical ailment and work through the pain, the expert said three is no need to allow their eyesight to deteriorate while using smartphones and other devices.

Instead, he issued a few pieces of advice to help people stay safe and protect their vision from the potential harm that prolonged use of digital handsets could cause.

Dr Liberman told people not to look at a book, computer screen or PDA longer than a few minutes without "looking up, taking a deep breath, and allowing a distant object to come into focus". This will relax your focusing system and increase visual comfort and performance.

In addition, he advised that they should stand up and take a short break from reading and computer work every 30 to 45 minutes and shift the focus between a nearby and distant object to relieve eyestrain.

He also noted: "Remove your glasses or contact lenses whenever you don"t really need them. Experiment with this while you eat or talk on the phone. This will give your eyes a chance to relax."

With the rise in smartphone popularity unlikely to abate at any point in the near future, following these steps could help to maintain vision while still allowing people to utilise the latest technology. 

by Martin Burns

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