Could Your Smartphone Harm Your Eyes?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Doctors have warned that checking your smartphone screen in bed at night could cause problems for your vision.

This unusual phenomenon is being alerted to the public by doctors after two women temporarily went blind from checking their phones in the dark.

Apparently, the solution lies in using both eyes when you look at your phone screen in the dark.

Doctors provided details of the two cases in the New England Journal of Medicine. The two women, aged 22 and 40, experienced months of “transient smartphone blindness”.

Both women had recurring episodes of temporary blindness, which lasted up to 15 minutes. They underwent a number of medical examinations, heart tests and MRI scans, to no avail. Doctors could not find any problems that might explain the problem.

However, the mystery was solved for both women after visiting an eye specialist.

Dr Gordon Plant, based at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London, asked the women what they were doing when they experienced the symptoms. He explained that both women tend to use one eye to look at their smartphones whilst lying on their side in bed, so the other eye would be hidden by the pillow.

He continued by saying that one eye is adapted to the dark whilst the other is adapted to light from the mobile phone.

When the women put their phones down, they were unable to see with the eye that had looked at the phone. According to Dr Plant, this is because the eye needs time to catch up on the other eye that’s already adapted to the dark.

Dr Plant said that ultimately, the temporary blindness was harmless and it could be easily avoided if people looked at their smartphones with two eyes.

The first woman felt relieved that the short-term blindness didn’t implicate anything more serious, for example a pending stroke. Dr Plant said the second woman was more doubtful and it took a month of keeping a diary to track her temporary loss of vision before she believed him. He said that she still didn’t stop checking her phone in bed.

According to Dr Rahul Khurana, who spoke on behalf of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, these two cases (though fascinating) are not sufficient to prove that using smartphones in darkness with one eye causes temporary blindness. He had his doubts as to whether many other smartphone users were likely to witness the same phenomenon.

Dr Khurana, an avid smartphone user himself, attempted to reconstruct the scenario one evening with his wife, but struggled to check their phones using just one eye.