Stop smartphone use in the dark to preserve vision

I read last Wednesday's report with interest ("Mobile devices keep children from sleeping well: Study").

Today, children are exposed to smartphones very early in life.

With the longer duration of use, proportionately less time is spent on outdoor activities.

Children also tend to hold the devices closer to their eyes and use them even with insufficient background lighting.

These factors can adversely affect their eyes and vision.

The main concern in children is the progression of myopia, or short-sightedness, and along with it, the increased risk of other eye diseases, such as retinal detachment and glaucoma, later in life.

In addition, smartphone use has also been associated with recurrent transient blindness, according to a recent report from The New England Journal of Medicine.

The symptoms typically appear after several minutes of viewing a smartphone screen in the dark while lying on the bed or immediately after waking up.

The proposed reason for the repeated episodes of transient blurred vision is individuals using one eye to look at the bright screen, while the other eye is inadvertently covered with a pillow or bed linen.

This results in differential bleaching of the photo pigment within the retina - a light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye.

It is, thus, important to raise awareness of the potential impact of excessive mobile device use among children, especially in the dark.

A concerted effort by parents, teachers, healthcare providers and society will not only help to maintain the good health and development of our children but also preserve their precious vision.

Ajeet Madhav Wagle (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline 'Stop smartphone use in the dark to preserve vision'. Print Edition | Subscribe