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Are cellphones ruining your eyes?

Computers, smartphones, and tablets all have nice, bright, crisp screens that we look at everyday. One optometrist from Britain is defining our sudden rise in close device usage as 'screen sightedness'. What may seem like harmless reading or fun may actually be ruining your vision.

An optometrist in the United Kingdom by the name of David Allamby told the Daily Mail that since smartphones started becoming popular around 1997, there has been a "35 per cent increase in the number of people with advancing myopia." Myopia is the official term for nearsightedness ('shortsighted' in the UK), and Allamby is beginning to refer to it as 'screen sightedness'. Normally, by the time humans reach the age of 21 the affects of myopia have begun to stabilize, but according to Mr. Allamby, "excessive screen watching at close proximity keeps the genes that control myopia activated."

The Daily Mail states that information from the research study has indicated that when reading books or newspapers, we keep them at a distance of about 40cm away from us. On the other hand, smartphones and tablets are kept just 18cm away from the face. This is the most striking piece of data given that the size of text in a book or newspaper is no different than the size of text on a phone.

Mr. Allamby says that people need to begin limiting their use of devices and "consider the age at which they give their children a smartphone." He expects that "40 to 50 per cent of 30-year-olds could have myopia by 2033," all from our increased reliance on smartphones and tablets.

This doesn't mean you need to throw out your smart devices right away and get your eyes checked out, but it certainly should cause you to be more aware. Next time you go to pull out that tablet or smartphone while relaxing in the recliner, or before you go to bed, consider keeping it further away from your face. Or better yet, maybe just put it down for a few minutes.

Photo: Carolien Dekeersmaeker