Mobile device use raises risk of eye syndrome

WASHINGTON – The constant use of mobile devices raises the risk of an eye syndrome, exacerbated by users fixated on their phones or tablets forgetting to blink.

Dr. Riwo Oboh-Weilke, assistant professor of opthalmology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, says ubiquitous mobile devices are adding a new component to computer vision syndrome, which was coined with the increased use of desktop computers.

“It does take a toll on the eyes because when people are concentrating, they forget to blink,” says Oboh-Weilke.

“Typically we should blink about 18 times a minute or so,” says Oboh-Weilke. “When we’re on digital devices, we blink a third to half less than we normally would.”

The lack of natural lubrication causes dry eyes and eye strain, says Oboh-Weilke, who also practices at Consulting Ophthalmologists, in Waldorf, Md.

The smaller-sized screens of mobile devices increases the demands on eyes.

“People hold these devices a little bit closer to their eyes than we normally would hold a book or newspaper,” says Oboh-Weilke. “Holding the device closer to the eyes can add some strain to the eyes.”

Oboh-Weilke says people who spend all day in front of a computer face additional challenges to eye health.

“In addition to that, now people go home and then they have their digital devices, once they’re done with their work day,” she says.

“We’re not giving our eyes a break,” says Oboh-Weilke.

She recommends regular visits with eye care providers, who can discover any underlying conditions or prescribe lenses best suited for a particular patient.

Oboh-Weilke says computer users could benefit by following “the 20-20-20 rule.”

Every 20 minutes, a user should look at an object 20 feet away, for a period of 20 seconds.

Lubricating drops can soothe dry and tired eyes for mobile users, says Oboh- Weilke.

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