How Your Phone Can Cause Vision Loss

“Don’t sit too close to the TV; you’ll go blind.” This theory didn’t arise from science, but more likely because parents in the 50’s were sick of trying to watch a TV with a screen the size of a graham cracker through the head of their six-year-old. But today’s modern child (and adult) hypnotizer, the cell phone, actually might harm vision thanks to the macular degeneration the blue light it emits causes.  

The negative effects of excessive screen time include reduced sleep, reduced physical activity, and poorer dietary behaviors. Reduced sleep itself is not only the result of forsaking sleep in order to play on a device but also because the blue light radiating from it literally tricks our brains into thinking we ought to be awake. Just like a moth thinks a candle light is a natural cue, so too does our subconscious brain presume that blue light is that which would naturally come from the sky. Its response, to stay wakeful in order to take advantage of valuable daylight, is misguided by technology.

This is not the only way that blue light emission from cell phones may adversely affect us. Our eyes are ill-equipped to protect themselves against naturally occurring blue light from the sun. Further increasing exposure to this wavelength of light from any artificial source, particularly cell phones, only worsens an existing problem. Americans spend an average of 4.7 hours per day on their phones. This is more than sufficient to risk the amount of blue light exposure that could damage the retinas and cause cataracts and especially age-related macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is a condition where the part of the retina responsible for high-acuity vision is damaged. As macular degeneration blurs the center of the field of vision, it is more immediately noticeable than conditions which affect the peripheral field of vision. It affects tens of millions of people globally and is the fourth leading cause of blindness. Factors other than blue light that contribute to macular degeneration include obesity and exposure to tobacco smoke.

There are ways to protect the eyes against macular degeneration caused by blue light. The first and almost too obvious to mention solution is to limit time spent using phones. It is recommended that children younger than two receive no screen time per day, and older children no more than two hours. When considering limits for adults, it helps to be realistic — many of us make our livings while we look at computer and phone screens. For that reason, for adults, it is advisable to limit screen time to what is strictly necessary.

Another solution is to wear glasses with lenses that are treated with a blue-light filter coating. Even people with existing cases of eye strain report fewer symptoms when wearing such glasses, which act simply to repel the wavelength of light that is most deleterious to the most sensitive part of our eyes. Make sure to ask about these lenses when you next see your optometrist. We prescribe them every day in our clinic! Have you tried them? Let us know the results below!

One Love,

Dr. Jenna

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