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Phone screens are damaging our vision by making eyeballs grow, expert says

'The initial theory for this is that people are doing more near-plane reading activity with smartphones'

Aatif Sulleyman
Thursday 29 June 2017 17:21 BST
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This could also be the case because people are spending less time outdoors
This could also be the case because people are spending less time outdoors

Smartphones are damaging people’s vision by causing eyeballs to continue growing for longer than they should, an ophthalmologist has claimed.

There are more people becoming short-sighted now than there were a decade ago, according to Andrew Bastawrous, who believes the amount of time we’re spending in front of screens is at least partly to blame.

Severe myopia can lead to sight-threatening conditions, including glaucoma and retinal detachment.

“The growth of the eye tends to slow down in your late teens and stop. But what's happening in these population is that it isn't stopping. It seems to continue, and it's being seen all over the world but much more so in Asia,” Mr Bastawrous told Wired.

Myopia is caused by the elongation of the eye, which causes light from distant objects to fall just short of the retina, making the image appear blurred.

“The initial theory for this is that people are doing more near-plane reading activity with smartphones which is encouraging the eye to become myopic to meet that environmental need. There’s also evidence that suggests this is happening too quickly for it to be purely an environmental or genetic response.”

He added that this could also be the case because people are spending less time outdoors, and getting less exposure to ultraviolet light.

“Many people no longer spend time looking at the stars and the mountains, they're looking at screens more often instead,” he said.

His views echo the findings of a King’s College London study from 2015, exploring the possible link between increased computer and smartphone use and rising rates of myopia.

The emergence of higher myopia rates in younger generations was “not related to the natural course of ageing”, it claimed.

However, it also added that the rise in myopia rates “might pre-date the computer” and “certainly pre-dates iPads and iPhones”.

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