WASHINGTON – Why are young people, especially women, reporting cases of temporary blindness and other vision problems in record numbers?
Doctors see a correlation with cellphone use – especially watching the device in the dark with one eye closed or obscured.
It’s no joke, says the New England Journal of Medicine, which published a study calling the syndrome “transient smartphone blindness.”
The good news is the condition normally only lasts for two minutes, but the long-term effects are unknown and have doctors and hospital officials concerned. Some fear there may be permanent damage to the eye.
Some victims of the syndrome believed they were suffering strokes. Since the syndrome is still largely unknown by many doctors, they have been known to order all manner of tests, including MRIs and heart scans.
Here’s what doctors believe is the culprit.
Young people often use smartphones in their bedrooms at night with no lights on. The intense light of the LED screen is absorbed into eyes, or, in many cases, one eye with another obscured by a blanket or pillow. But using any smartphone in the dark puts severe strain on the eyes, the doctors say.
“Although most people view screens binocularly, people frequently use smartphones while lying down, when one eye can be inadvertently covered,” explained the New England Journal of Medicine study. “Smartphones are now used nearly around the clock, and manufacturers are producing screens with increased brightness to offset background ambient luminance and thereby allow easy reading. Hence, presentations such as we describe are likely to become more frequent. Our cases show that detailed history taking and an understanding of retinal physiology can reassure both patient and doctor and can avoid unnecessary anxiety and costly investigations.”
In addition, using your cellphone in the dark can also potentially cause another serious problem – retinal detachment, which can also cause partial blindness and requires surgery to correct.