What is it about such warnings?
In view of this development, from his point of view, eye tests for drivers should not only be compulsory for the driving test. “A repeat test would make perfect sense.”
At a congress of the German Ophthalmological Society last October in Berlin, experts also warned of an increase in myopia.
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This is myopia
Nearsightedness (myopia), in which distant objects are perceived as blurred, is the result of excessive elongation of the eyeball, especially between the ages of 6 and 18 – at the age when many adolescents can hardly get away from their cell phones or computers. Severe myopia is also considered a risk factor for other eye conditions such as glaucoma or retinal detachment.
Berlin (dpa) – Better not to use cell phones for the little ones: Excessive use of smartphones, tablets and computers in early childhood leads to more myopia, according to ophthalmologists.
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“Studies show that myopia is around 50 percent influenced by lifestyle,” said Bettina Wabbels from the Bonn University Eye Clinic for the Society for Ophthalmology. So far, there is evidence of this mainly from Asian countries. “This wave is rolling towards us now too.”
In children under three years of age, frequent staring at computer screens close by leads to the eyeball growing and thus making the eye longer, explained the ophthalmologist from the Bonn University Clinic. “Once an eye has grown in this way, it no longer shrinks,” she added. “From the age of 12, the course is set for the eyes.” Myopia is then sealed for life. Wabbels therefore recommends a maximum of 30 minutes in front of computers for four to six year olds. Primary school children up to ten years of age should sit in front of it for a maximum of one hour.
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It is above all the proximity of smartphones and the like to the eyes that can lead to poor eyesight in children. “A television is less of a problem because it is further away,” said Bettina Wabbels. But when small children often watch games on computer screens, it’s not just the eyes that suffer. “Everything is flat with the tablet,” she explained. This can also affect the development of spatial vision and imagination in children – the change between near and far vision, for example. That promotes blurred vision – and also strabismus.
Then there are irritated, tired and dry eyes. The blue light component in screens also inhibits the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, added Nicole Eter, predentor of the Society for Ophthalmology. Before going to bed, children should therefore lie for one to two hours without looking at the computer. “Incidentally, the same applies to adults,” said Wabbels.
“Basically it’s like sweets,” added the doctor. “Computers are very attractive to children, but you have to limit that.to kill a mockingbird argumentative essay topics The younger they are, the less they are used.” Whether smartphone, tablet or PC – the size of the screen does not matter. Small children should rather play with building blocks and conquer the real world indoors and outdoors. That is definitely better – also for the eyes.
According to the Society for Ophthalmology, the number of nearsighted people in industrialized countries has grown in recent years. In Germany it is now 50 percent of young adults. In Asian countries, the rate is already 95 percent.
“The increase is mainly due to the very early and intensive use of PCs, smartphones and tablets,” said Eter. Because the children spend less time outdoors, they cannot see into the distance. According to the company, myopia does not only mean wearing glasses or contact lenses for life. The risks for retinal diseases or glaucoma are also greater.
More and more people are using smartphones. But there are warnings that looking at the small screens for hours can damage your eyes. What is the truth of the fears?
Suddenly the 22-year-old was blind – again. The woman had turned off the light shortly before going to sleep, lay down in her bed and checked her smartphone for a while. When she straightened up, everything was black. But after a few minutes without cell phone contact, the 22-year-old could see again without any problems.
Researchers have dubbed the phenomenon “temporary smartphone blindness”. They explain the event in the “New England Journal of Medicine”: Blindness occurs when someone lies on their side, uses the cell phone and covers an eye with a pillow or blanket. Because of the glaring screen light, visual pigments in the retina are used up in the exposed eye. If the woman got up, only the hidden eye was adjusted to the darkness. So the lady said she was blind.
The 22-year-old was only one of two women with the same problem. The cases show extreme examples. Nobody has to fear going blind from smartphones. Nevertheless, it is feared again and again that smartphones can damage the eyes. No wonder, as many people stare at their devices for hours day and night. According to “Statista”, 81 percent of Germans aged 14 and over used a smartphone in 2017. The phones are suspected of causing myopia – or other eye damage. What is it about such warnings?
Smartphones can promote myopia
One potential problem with smartphone use is myopia. Statistics show that the number of nearsighted people in Germany has been increasing for years. According to a report by the German Ophthalmological Society (DOG) from 2015, around 40 percent of adolescents and young adults were nearsighted. A 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that around half of the world’s population could have poor eyesight by 2050.
The report from the DOG quotes ophthalmologist Wolf Lagrèze with a possible explanation for this development in Germany: “The reasons are probably changes in play and leisure activities with increased use of smartphones and iPads,” says the doctor. “combined with intensive learning behavior in rooms that offer little daylight.” Lagrèze is head of the Pediatric Ophthalmology Section at the Freiburg University Medical Center.
In plain language this means: Children who get little daylight and do a lot of close work have a higher risk of becoming myopic. Genetics also play a role – if both parents are nearsighted, the risk is seven times as great – but studies have shown that daylight and close work can influence the development of the eye. An overview study from 2015 from Taiwan showed, for example: Children who do a lot of local work have an increased risk of becoming myopic. A 2017 overview study from China shows that children who spend more time outside have a lower risk of myopia. However, spending time outside did not slow the development of nearsightedness in eyes that were already poorly sighted.
Demonizing smartphones would be wrong, says Lagrèze. Because there are no studies on the effects of smartphone use and myopia. “If you read small booklets in a dimly lit room for several hours a day, you can also become myopic,” says the doctor. But: “A significant effect can be found at a reading distance of less than 30 centimeters,” says Lagrèze. “When I look at my smartphone, for example, it’s 30 centimeters. And that has an impact.”
There is an all-clear for adults: Myopia mainly develops in children and adolescents, says ophthalmologist Focke Ziemssen from the University Hospital Tübingen. “Anyone who does not have myopia after puberty – or even better – is somewhat farsighted, need not fear that the values will suddenly skyrocket.” says Ziemssen. “But if you get more and more myopic by the age of 25, it can progress slowly afterwards.”
Consequences of high myopia (from about 6 dioptres) can be various eye diseases, says ophthalmologist Lagrèze. For example, cataracts or glaucoma. The doctor advises his patients to go out for about two hours a day. He describes alternative healing methods such as eye training or grid glasses as “completely unproven”. The doctor also considers the advice to eat more carrots to get vitamin A unnecessary: ”Everyone in our part of the world gets enough vitamin A every day, unless they have an illness,” says Lagrèze. Ophthalmologist Ziemssen adds: “Too many carrots can also be harmful. A patient who ate four kilograms of carrots a day got carotene poisoning of the retina. The substances were stored there.”
Can blue light harm the eyes?
Another potential problem from using too much smartphone: damage from blue light. Screens of computers, televisions or smartphones use LEDs (“light emitting diodes”) with a blue cast for background lighting. This is suspected of promoting age-related macular degeneration. In this disease, photoreceptor cells die on the so-called yellow spot – the macula. Because of the high density of photoreceptors, the macula is considered to be the area of sharpest vision. As a result, people can go almost blind in the worst case scenario.
Whether this is really the case is currently still being researched. For example, experiments on rats have shown that the animals’ visual cells die from too much blue light. A study from the USA from August 2018 led by chemist Ajith Karunarathne explains the reason for this: blue light affects the retinal molecule. Retinal is located in the rods in the eye and is also part of the compound of vitamin A. In short: if light hits the eye, a signal cascade is created with the help of retinal, which creates the image in the brain. If blue light hits the eye, however, according to the study, toxic compounds are created through retinal. The result: photoreceptor cells die.
Karunarathne’s study used many media outlets to warn of the possible dangers of blue light. Titles like “Blue light can be blind” were not uncommon. When asked by the technology magazine “The Verge” whether the investigation actually proves that blue light makes people blind, study leader Karunarathne replied: “Absolutely not.” An article by the American Academy of Ophthalmology warns against overrating the study on many points and summarizes: “The researchers took cells that did not come from the eye, combined them with retinal in a way that does not occur in the body, and expose the cells to light in ways that do not occur in nature. ” Karunarathne himself gives the all-clear on his university website.
Ophthalmologist Ziemssen explains: “It is true that LEDs in smartphones and co. Have a certain amount of blue light. However, the amount of energy only corresponds to a fraction of what is radiated by the sun.” According to Ziemssen, distance to the face and length of use also play a role. The ophthalmologist emphasizes that an adult’s eye can basically filter out invisible UV rays. The visible blue light is let through by the “cornea and youthful lens” and reaches the retina. “So if you use the phone and computer all the time, especially for text messages, e-mails and web browsing in close proximity, there could theoretically be effects,” says Ziemssen.
The ophthalmologist adds that new LEDs have a lower proportion of blue light. For cautious people, Ziemssen refers to blue light filters for screens. But he warns of overpriced offers: “Some ophthalmologists offer yellow intraocular lenses with blue light filters at an extra charge of up to 600 euros,” says Ziemssen. “The purchase price usually hardly differs from other lenses without a filter. A benefit of such yellow lenses has also not been proven in studies.”
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Smartphones can dry out eyes
The irritating effect of screens on the eyes is undisputed. There is even a technical term for it: “Computer Vision Syndrome” (CVS). If you stare at a screen for too long, be it a computer, smartphone or tablet, you will be less likely to hit your eyelids, explains Ziemssen. People usually flap their lids up to 12 times a minute. “If someone reads or plays something with concentration, the blink of an eye goes down to four to five beats per minute,” says Ziemssen.
This makes the tear film unstable and the eye can dry out. Among other things, those affected have the feeling that their eyes burn or feel a foreign body in the organ of vision