Facebook Fan Submitted topic #2: How do Smart Phones affect our Vision?

We asked for suggestions from our Facebook fans for blog posts and we got some great responses.   This is the second of  5 posts on Dr.  Beach’s blog  to be based on these topics/questions.

Wanda, a CEC Facebook fan, asks:    “With more phones being smart phones allowing us to spend more time on Facebook, ect how does this effect our vision versus time spent on computers?”

Wanda, I have to admit that I am addicted to my Blackberry Storm (and still pondering the Google droid) so I can relate to this question as a patient and an optometrist.   This is a great topic as more and more people buy smart phones and spend more time using applications on those phones.

Some of the potential visual issues of using smart phones are very similar to those experienced with heavy computer use.    I made some pretty interesting posts regarding Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) about a month ago.     Be sure to check them out if you get a chance, but potential issues that could be experienced with smart phone and computer use include headache, loss of focus, burning/tired feeling, and blurred vision.

One effect of smart phones that may be more severe than with computer use is the need for “accommodation”, or the contraction of near focusing muscles.   This is for two reasons.    First, most of us hold our smart phones at a distance much closer than we view our computers.  The closer the distance, the greater the contraction of near focus.   Secondly, the print or text on smart phones is typically much smaller than that found on computers.  The smaller the print, the greater the contraction of near focus.

It is this overuse of accommodation when using smart phones that may create problems for some individuals.   Overuse can result in headaches, eye strain, and blurry vision.   Sometimes, the contraction of accommodation is such that it may not relax when looking far away which would actually result in blurry distance vision.

Whether it be computers or smart phones, the key is to take breaks.    On the Computer Vision Syndrome post I advocated the 20-20-20 Rule:   every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break by looking at something 20 feet away.  This would relax accommodation.   Given the increased demand on the near focusing muscles created by smart phones, perhaps that rule should be adapted to 10-20-20:  every 10 minutes, take a break and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Wanda, thank you for submitting such a great topic.