The Harmful Effects of Smartphones

Doctors at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary have dubbed the symptoms 'Computer Vision Syndrome.'

iPhone image via shutterstock

iPhone image via shutterstock

The inescapable reality of this technologically progressive era is that we are constantly checking social media, reading our news online, and searching for the latest Beyonce video on our phones. Even doctors are getting on board, with phone apps to make house calls, and devices to turn iPhones into medical cameras. But Boston doctors at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary have noticed a particular influx of patients in recent years complaining of eye problems that are attributed to smartphone usage. Patients with eye soreness, dizziness, blurry vision, headaches, and muscle strain are said to have “Computer Vision Syndrome.”

Dr. Matt Gardiner, an ophthalmologist at Mass. Eye and Ear said in a report that most of the time people blink about 15 times per minute. But when using smartphones, that rate drops by half, causing dry eyes. Additionally, Gardiner says that people’s shoulder and neck muscles tense up, face muscles contort, and headaches set in as they stare at tiny screens for a prolonged amount of time.

Now that you are hyper-aware of what your face looks like as you read this, Gardiner suggests taking breaks from staring at the screen every 20 minutes or so, make a conscious effort to blink more often, and increase the font size on your device to help alleviate symptoms.

Luckily, Boston’s doctors are innovative enough to create technology to help save us from technology. Gang Luo, an associate scientist at Mass. Eye and Ear has created a free app called SuperVision Magnifier which magnifies the images on your screen and uses the iPhone camera to provide more light for you to read by. It also comes equipped with “image stabilization” which allows you to stabilize the image or type on your screen to make it easier to read and reduce strain on your eyes.

Luo is also working on a number of other apps for smartphones to help reduce the physical toll the tiny screens take on your eyes.

Psychologists have also been studying the medical phenomena caused by smartphone use. People who incorrectly feel or hear their phone go off are said to have experienced Phantom Cell Phone Vibration Syndrome, and those who are physically affected by the loss of their phone are diagnosed with “nomophobia“—the fear of not having your mobile phone. Perhaps Boston doctors will soon come up with new apps to help alleviate the symptoms of these rising issues as well.