‘Smartphone blindness’: Staring at gadgets in bed can seriously harm vision – study

© Enrique de la Osa
The widespread and seemingly harmless habit of checking an email or chatting on social networks while lying in bed just before you go to sleep at night can actually harm vision and even trigger temporary blindness, a new study warns.

The cases of two women, aged 22 and 40, who customarily checked their smartphones while in bed and ended up suffering severe loss of vision in one eye for up to 15 minutes at a time over several months have been described in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

The cause of the occurrence took a considerable amount of time to establish. The patients had to go through ophthalmic and cardiovascular examinations which found no anomalies. Vitamin A levels and the results of magnetic resonance angiography, echocardiography, and a thrombophilia screening also came back normal and revealed nothing.

“Both patients were asked to experiment and record their symptoms. They reported that the symptoms were always in the eye contralateral to the side on which the patient was lying,” the study said.

The mystery was solved by an eye specialist who figured the problem should involve some kind of exposure and not be connected with internal health problems.

“I simply asked them, ’What exactly were you doing when this happened?’” Dr. Gordon Plant of Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London said, according to the Guardian.

It turned out that both women had been using their smartphones while lying in bed on their side with one eye covered with a pillow. Thus one eye had to adapt to the bright light of the phone screen while the other remained in darkness.

The “phone eye” had to catch up with the “pillow eye” when the women decided to put the phones away. This led to the simple phenomenon very scientifically termed “transient smartphone blindness.”

The one-eyed smartphone blindness is not particularly serious and can be easily prevented, once a person starts to look at the phone with both eyes wide open. The authors of the study, however, hope that it will contribute to avoiding “unnecessary anxiety and costly investigations.”

One of the women was relieved to know that the blindness didn’t indicate a more serious health condition, media report. The other, though, took the news more skeptically and kept an observations diary for a month before she believed the medical conclusion.