Doctors at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston see many patients come in concerned about headaches, blurry vision, sore eyes and stiffened muscles from using their smartphones.

“At least every eighth patient has this complaint – it’ super common,” said Dr. Matt Gardiner, an ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and director of the hospital’s ophthalmology emergency services.

Eye doctors say the most frequent problem is that people blink far less when their eyes are straining to read on a small screen. Gardiner said people usually blink about 15 times a minute, but the average blink diminishes 50% or more when a person is looking at a smartphone screen.

Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist and director of the clinical balance and vestibular center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear said such concerns are not surprising. People get their sense of balance by the sensory inputs from the eyes, ears and muscles. If these senses conflict – say for example when your eyes feel as though they are moving because you’re looking at zooming icons, but your body says you are standing still, you may feel unbalanced. And, for people vulnerable to motion sickness, it may be worse.

Dr. Rauch suggests users close their eyes, then look elsewhere to try and reset their sensory system, if they begin to feel queasy.

Gang Luo, an associate scientist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear has created a free iphone app, called SuperVision Magnifier, that helps magnify images and supply extra light by using the phone’s camera. It also has an “image stabilization” feature so that enlarged type or images don’t seem to move around.

So what can we do to minimize stiffened neck and shoulder muscles, as well as headaches from looking at the small screen? Dr. Gardiner suggests the following “screen gems”….

* Take breaks from the phone screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus on something at least 20 feet away.

*  Try to blink more when you read from your smartphone screen. Without thinking about it, you are likely blinking far less and drying out your eyes.

*  Clean up the smudge marks on the screen and minimize glare.

*  Consider increasing the font size to lessen the strain on your eyes.

Hopefully these “gems” will help you in reducing any physical drawbacks you may have from using your smartphone. Unfortunately, they won’t help for people who find themselves unable to find their smartphones. Psychologists describe this as a disorder called “nomophobia” – the fear of having no-mobile!      bostonglobe.com  12/16/13

 

 

 

 

 

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