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Study: gawking at your phone in bed can lead to 'transient smartphone blindness'

Posted: , posted by Daniel P.

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This position is fine, but don't bury one eye in the pillow, or you might think you are going blind

When two women with the same weird temporary vision impairment case came to visit a renowned ophthalmologist as a last resort, he simply asked them "What exactly were you doing when this happened?" The women, 22 and 40, complained of numerous transient monocular vision loss incidents in the past few months. Still, their "ophthalmic and cardiovascular examinations were normal. Vitamin A levels and the results of magnetic resonance angiography, echocardiography, and a thrombophilia screening were also normal," says the study.

This presented somewhat of a conundrum for physicians, as usually monocular vision loss is the result of a thromboembolic (blood clot) incident. Well, this time around it was something much less sinister - their smartphones. After careful examination of the events that lead up to the temporary blindness symptoms, it turned out that the women were both lying on the side in their beds late at night, with one eye covered by the pillow, and the other staring at their phone's screen.

It seems to be precisely that setup which brought on the vision loss, established the researchers, and cited the physics behind it: "due to differential bleaching of photopigment, with the viewing eye becoming light-adapted while the eye blocked by the pillow was becoming dark-adapted. Subsequently, with both eyes uncovered in the dark, the light-adapted eye was perceived to be “blind.” The discrepancy lasted several minutes, reflecting the time course of scotopic recovery after a bleach."

Moral of the story? Don't cover one of your eyes, and stare at your phone screen in the dark with the other, you might think you are going blind, and bring unnecessary strain on your health insurer's budget for costly exams.

Transient smartphone blindness mechanism chart

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