If smartphones have made our lives easier, there is a flip side too – they cause vision impairment, says a leading laser eye surgeon. Femalefirst.co.uk reports that Surgeon David Allambym has revealed that smartphones have caused cases of myopia (short-sightedness) among young Britons to surge. Allamby, founder of Focus Clinics, has reported a 35 percent increase of patients with advancing myopia, since the launch of smartphones in 1997, and warns that worsening Myopia in young adults could increase by 50 percent within 10 years.
Half of Britons own smartphones and spend an average of two hours per day using them. Combined with the amount of hours spent in front of a computer screen, laptop, tablet and television, it means that particularly young people and children are at risk of permanently damaging their vision. New research found that the average smartphone user holds the handset 30 cm from their face, with some people holding it just 18 cm away, compared to newspapers and books, which are held 40cm away from the eyes.
According to Allamby, excessive screen watching at a close proximity keeps the genes that control myopia activated well beyond the age that short-sightedness would historically have stabilized, around the age of 21. This is known as ‘epigenetics’. Myopia used to stop in our early 20s but now we see it progressing throughout the 20s, 30s, and even into our 40s.
“If things continue as they are, I predict that 40-50 percent of 30-year-olds could have myopia by 2033 as a result of smartphones and lifestyles in front of screens, an epidemic we call Screen-Sightedness. People need to ensure they limit screen time wherever possible even by going outside without their phone for a period of time each day, and also seriously consider the age at which they give their children a smartphone,” Allamby said.
Allamby says today’s generation of children are most at risk of myopia, with children as young as seven being given their first smartphone. It is predicted that by 2014 children aged 12 to 17 years will be the second biggest market for smartphones behind 18-24 year olds.