Use Your Smartphone With the Lights Off and Risk Temporary Blindness

September 30, 2016

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You may have heard of digital eye strain. The Vision Council defines it as “the physical discomfort felt after two or more hours in front of a digital screen and is associated with the close to mid-range distance of digital screens.” As annoying as this condition is, in some cases, it has actually developed into something far worse, like temporary blindness.

Before we delve into the details of how this is possible, let’s first take a look at a TechInsider report highlighting just how much time people spend in front of screens.

  • 10 percent of users spend three-quarters of their waking hours looking at screens.
  • 40 percent of users spending more than five hours a day looking at screens.
  • 95 percent of users spend more than two hours a day looking at screens.

What makes digital eye strain difficult for the modern office worker is the fact that avoiding the screen can be virtually impossible. Plus, it doesn’t help that so much of our entertainment involves a television or computing device.

In regards to the risk of temporary blindness, two recent cases link the condition to looking at a smartphone screen, in a dark room, and with one eye covered. This happened to two women, aged 22 and 40, while they were using their smartphones in a dark room. In each case, the two women were lying on their side with a pillow covering the eye not looking at the screen. When their temporary blindness condition was brought to the attention of an optometrist, it was determined that misuse of the mobile devices was to blame.

In these two situations, temporary blindness occurred because the women had one eye covered while using their device. This causes one eye to try and adapt to the darkness by catching up to the other that isn’t being used, which couldn’t happen because a pillow was in the way. Subsequently, when the screen turns off, the open eye tries to adapt again, but experiences darkness until the other eye catches up.

Fortunately, these two cases have been diagnosed as circumstantial, and therefore, shouldn’t be a cause for concern from the smartphone-using public. However, the fact that these temporary blindness incidents resulted from looking at a screen incorrectly should be reason enough to warn about the dangers of digital eye strain–especially since so many office workers are required to spend so much of their time staring at a screen.

Here are four best practices for looking at screens that can potentially save your eyesight.

Remember to Blink
Not blinking often enough can dry out your eyes and cause pain. Blinking more often than you already are can go a long way in preventing eye strain.

Increase the Size of the Text
The smaller the text means the more you’ll have to squint in order to read it. In most apps, increasing the text size is as easy as using Ctrl + (+). Larger text may help alleviate headaches caused by eye strain.

The 20-20-20 Rule
Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look away from the screen and instead look at an object that’s 20 feet away. Doing so will prevent your eye muscles from focusing on a screen too much throughout the workday and going sedentary.

Reduce Blue-Light Exposure
Continuous absorption of blue light emitted from screens can cause damage to your eyes and produce cataracts, among many other problems. Minimizing screen time and using a pair of “computer glasses” to block some of the blue light are two ways to reduce this light.

Do you suffer from digital eye strain? What are some ways that you’ve found helpful to alleviate this strain? Share them with us in the comments.


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