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October, 29, 2016

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Smartphone use poses danger to eye health

Taiwan recently celebrated World Sight Day, but the event unfortunately failed to draw the media's attention. The international campaign aims to raise awareness of sight-related problems, and it is time for health and education authorities to open their eyes to the impending vision troubles facing Taiwan. Taiwanese people use 3C products (computer, communications and consumer electronics) for 7.8 hours per day on average, meaning that their eyes remain under stress for up to one third of the day, according to a survey conducted in September 2016 by various ophthalmological societies and Alcon Taiwan.

Even more eye-opening, nearly one in two people say their eyes feel uncomfortable after using such devices for less than 30 minutes, but 75 percent of respondents would choose not to consult a doctor about their sight problems, with young adults the most likely to forgo seeking medical advice. This is extremely worrisome when you know that long exposure to electronic devices can cause eye conditions such as dry eye, glaucoma, presbyopia and sometimes retinal detachment. Eye strain from handheld devices can also lead to other discomforts such as headaches, dryness and blurred vision. The problem is especially acute among those who think it can't happen to them.

Contrary to all expectations, the survey found that up to 47 percent of elderly people use mobile messaging apps, and over 40 percent of them use their smartphones under insufficient illumination, making them more vulnerable to cataracts.

Meanwhile, 50 percent of teenage students like to play games on their mobile phones, to the point that excessive "phubbing" has already led to a 26-percent hike in the number of nearsighted students, according to the statistics issued by the Ministry of Education.

Even though we are all to blame for not taking care of our health, we shouldn't turn a blind eye to what is happening and encourage teenagers to spend a maximum of two hours per day using mobile phones, TVs, computers and electronic game gadgets, with less than one hour for children aged under 12. We should further refrain from using our smartphones on moving vehicles, such as taxi cabs, buses and trains, as well as in direct sunlight or in low light. In addition, people are advised to take a 10-minute break after every 30 minutes of use, to go outdoors to gaze at nature and should receive regular eye examinations. If you wait until you experience macular degeneration, your vision will become blurred and your ability to read and work could be permanently affected.

In the past, conditions like macular degeneration would mostly affect people age 55 and older; and it was considered a major cause for patients 65 years and above losing their vision. But over the past decade, some ophthalmologists say they have seen a 30-percent increase in the number of people in the 40-50 age bracket. After reading this article, you should take a 20 second break and do some stretches. Learn to disconnect in order to reconnect with your surroundings. If you are one of the severe smartphone/tablet addicts, perhaps you can consider joining a special camp for phone addicts. It is time you loved your eyes more than your smartphone.

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