22

I've heard it said very often: Using a computer/smartphone can make you nearsighted.

Is it true? Is there good research on the topic?

  • 6
    maybe you've been using computers so much you can't see the evidence? :) – jwenting Feb 21 '12 at 13:46
  • It'd be nice if you could state a few places that make this claim, just to prove it's being reputable... – Cullub Feb 28 '15 at 17:57
  • I recall this being discussed a lot in the late 80's when people were starting to use PCs - but it always puzzled me that articles tended to focus on "gamma rays from the CRT" as a possible cause, and not at all on the generally poor-to-terrible quality of the screen image, which was usual back then on consumer equipment. Nobody would ever put up with printed text that was as fuzzy as, say, a TRS-80 screen. – greggo Mar 7 '15 at 16:51
11

Yes, it can, just as much as reading or any other activity where you're looking at something close to your eyes.

"Optometric Clinical Practice Guidline: Care Of The Patient With Myopia":

Doing a substantial amount of near work on a regular basis can increase the risk for myopia. Myopia is associated with greater time spent reading and doing near work, better reading test scores, more years of education, occupations that require a great deal of near work, and greater academic ability

  • 1
    Does "increase the risk" really support an unqualified "Yes"? I mean, it certainly supports a positive answer, but it is not indicative of a direct causative process, is it? – dmckee Feb 21 '12 at 17:48
  • 1
    @dmckee: well he is saying that yes, it can make you short-sighted not that it will make you short-sighted. Essentially, it's a risk factor. – nico Feb 21 '12 at 23:46
  • This assumes normal vision. What if you already have hyperopia (are farsighted)? – Sam I Am Feb 22 '12 at 0:59
  • ...Farsighted and nearsighted? :) Or maybe it would make you normal-sighted... :) (you can tell I'm not an optometrist) – Cullub Feb 28 '15 at 17:59
  • @cullub Maybe you would get astigmatism? – KSmarts Mar 2 '15 at 22:31
5
+200

Personal computers are possibly one of the most empowering tool humanity has ever created. They're tools of communication, creativity, and they can be shaped by the user.

But, of course they "computers" come with various negative effects. One negative effect is affecting your eyesight.

Computer users (including me) have reported many eyesight problems like blurred vision, redness in the eyes, fatigue, eye strain, dry eyes, irritated eyes, double vision, vertigo/dizziness, polyopia, and difficulty refocusing the eyes resulting from computer display.

The medical community had to create a term for all those eyesight problems, which is:

Computer vision syndrome (CVS)

It is defined by the American Optometric Association as:

the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work which are experienced during, or related to, computer use.

Who gets effected by CVS?

Somewhere between 50% and 90% of the people who spend three hours or more a day at a computer as reported by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Also, a total of 795 students, aged between 18 and 25 years, from five universities in Malaysia filled a questionnaire survey study regarding the duration of daily continuous use of computer, symptoms of CVS,...

Ninety percent of university students in Malaysia experienced symptoms related to CVS, which was seen more often in those who used computer for more than 2 hours continuously per day.

Does it affect children too?

It has been reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information that children get affected by it. The study reported that:

Children can experience many of the same symptoms related to computer use as by adults. Extensive viewing of the computer screen can lead to eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches, dry eyes and other symptoms of eyestrain.

It has been mentioned also here:

Barar A, Apatachioaie ID, Apatachioaie C, Marceanu-Brasov L. Ophthalmologist and computer vision syndrome. Oftalmologia. 2007;51:104–109.

Bali J, Navίn N, Thakur BR. Computer vision syndrome: a study of the knowledge, attitudes and practices in Indian ophthalmologists. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2007;55:289–294.

Is CVS Permanent?

Currently it seems that there is no clinical evidence linking computer use results to permanent vision problems. So, it is unlikely that the use of computers causes permanent changes or damage to the eyes or visual system.

See:

World Health Organization. Provisional statements of WHO working group on occupational health aspects in the use of visual display units. VDT News, 3(1):13,1986.

Mutti DO, Zadnik K. Is computer use a risk factor for myopia? J Am Optom Assoc, 67(9):521-30, 1996.

I am still skeptical how do you know those eye symptoms resulted from a computer screen?

A study compared computer and hardcopy conditions with regard to blurred vision during a task.

30 normal subjects read identical text (same size, contrast, viewing angle, luminance) aloud either from a desktop computer screen or a printed hardcopy page at a viewing distance of 50 cm for 20 minutes.

Immediately following completion of the reading task, subjects completed a written questionnaire asking about their level of ocular discomfort during the task.

Significant differences in median symptom scores were reported with regard to blurred vision during the task (t = 147.0; p = 0.03) and the mean symptom score (t = 102.5; p = 0.04).

Symptom scores mean: observations on discrepancies when defining symptoms using words and numbers.

Symptoms following sustained computer use were significantly worse than those reported after hard copy fixation under similar viewing conditions.

What is the most important factor leading to the syndrome?

That most important factor is the angle of gaze at the computer monitor.

Twenty-eight people participated in an experiment and measured: The distance from the eye to the computers' monitor (A) the computers' monitor height (B) and visual axis height (C)
D was defined as B (the computers' monitor height) - C (visual axis height)

Angles of gaze to the computer monitor, could be found by, angle=tan(-1)(D/ A).

Then they divided angles into two groups:

Group 1: participants with angles of gaze ranging from 0 degrees to 13.9 degrees.

Group 2: participants gazing at angles larger than 14 degrees.

Statistical analysis of the evaluated variables was made. The results:

Computer users in both groups used more tear supplements (as part of the syndrome) than expected. This association was statistically significant (p<0.10). Participants in Group 1 reported more pain than participants in Group 2. Associations between the CVS and other personal or ergonomic variables were not statistically significant.

Link between computer/cellphone use and Nearsightedness (known also as myopia)

Pubmed mentions that:

Clinical studies of myopic progression and transient myopia among VDT users are considered, as is television viewing as a risk factor for juvenile myopia.

Dr. Maria Liu, head of the new Myopia Control Clinic at UC Berkeley’s School of Optometry said:

There are a number of factors involved in the increase of myopia, but I have no doubt that changes in lifestyle over the past several decades that include more time spent indoors and the early use of handheld computers play a big role.

The problem with smartphones and iPads is that kids often hold them closer to their eyes than they would a book, and they can become totally absorbed for hours at a time. The working distance for handheld devices is much closer than it is for laptops and TV.

Many EyeCare agencies and mention too that:

Many eye doctors who specialize in children’s vision say sustained computer use puts kids at higher risk for childhood myopia (nearsightedness). They point out that, though myopia affects approximately 25% of the U.S. population, nearly 50% of adult computer users with a college education are nearsighted. Computer use, especially among youngsters whose eyes are still changing, may be the reason for this disparity.

Research seems to support this theory. A study of 253 children between the ages of 6 and 10 at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry found a strong correlation between the amount of time young children spend on the computer and their development of nearsightedness.

But, in the end there is no compelling evidence which proves computer use causes myopia.

Which really means that there is absence of evidence, but not necessarily evidence of absence. It is still a theory.

Takeaway:

  • 1
    I'm giving you the bounty because the time is running out and I like the work you did, it certainly explains the eye fatigue I would think normal people would assume was damaging your eyes. However it doesn't actually answer weather computer screens cause near sightedness, which is in the body of the question and what I was primarily interested in. Either way, thanks. – Kit Sunde Mar 8 '15 at 15:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .