Are your iPhone and/or tablet wrecking your eyesight?

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The Daily Mail’s Emma Innes reports that British eye surgeon David Allamby, founder of Focus Clinics, says intensive use of smartphones is causing vision problems to soar, citing a 35% increase in the number of people with advancing myopia (short-sightedness) since the popularity of smartphones began to mushroom in 1997.

Mr. Allamby also believes the problem could increase by 50% during the next decade, with the problem having become so common that he has given it a name: “screen sightedness.” Allamby contends that smartphone use, combined with with time spent using computers and watching television, is putting children and young people at risk of permanently damaging their eyesight, with excessive screen watching at close proximity keeping the genes that control myopia active sometimes long beyond the age that short-sighted sets would normally have stabilized (approximately age 21), in some instances even into the 40s. He predicts that 50% of 30-year-olds could have the problem by 2033.

Allamby advises mobile device users to limit screen time wherever possible, even to try going outside without their phone for a period of time each day (with the side-benefit that exposure to sunshine has been shown to reduce the progression of myopia), and also seriously consider the age at which they give their children a smartphone.

You can see the full report at

Mr. Allamby’s Focus Clinics bio-profile notes that in addition to performing LASIK, LASEK and PRK surgery, he is a recognized leader in the field of treating presbyopia (the age-related need for reading glasses), and that he was the first surgeon in the United Kingdom to perform Blended Vision for presbyopia in January 2003, the first UK surgeon to perform Z-LASIK with its advanced small bubble technology (SBT) for both distance vision and reading vision, and the first UK surgeon to implant the KAMRA corneal inlay to correct presbyopia.

David Allamby

Photo Courtesy Focus Clinics

Mr Allamby has worked at some of the United Kingdom’s leading eye centres, including Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. His published scientific work in ocular scar formation was undertaken at the University of Manchester, and was funded by a prestigious Wellcome Trust grant, and he has provided surgical training to visiting doctors from countries around the world, with his work in presbyopia having been rewarded by Focus becoming a European Centre of Excellence in 2012.

Focus is a state-of-the-art laser eye surgery clinic located in the heart of London’s Harley Street medical enclave that specializes not only in short- and long-sight corrective surgery, but also blended vision, which is a treatment for those needing reading glasses, a treatment pioneered in the UK by Mr. Allamby at Focus.

The Protect Your Eyesight Website explains that the human eye is not meant to spend hours focusing on objects at close range, and is in a naturally relaxed state when looking at something at further distances, approximately 7 feet and beyond. Additionally, research has shown that long hours spent on a computer or reading can lead to permanent damage caused by this “near-point stress.”

A report by Women’s Health Magazine’s Brigid Sweeney says a vision disorder some eye experts call “computer vision syndrome” (CVS) is becoming common, and can affect up to 90 percent of people who spend two or more continuous hours a day with their eyes focused on a screen, whether on a computer, an e-reader, a smartphone or a combination of devices. Ms. Sweeney notes that CVS symptoms, which can include blurry vision, headaches, dry eyes, or even long-term nearsightedness, may accrue over a period of days or months. She observes that most people sit less than two feet from their computer screen, forcing a ring of eye muscles to continuously contract in order to redirect focus, and that if you stare at any sort of digital monitor for hours, those eye muscles can become so stressed that they can’t relax, even after you look away. The resulting blurred vision, a main CVS symptom, often clears up in as little as a few seconds, but she cautions that if you hit this hazy point a lot—such as several times a day, most days of the week—then the short-term nearsightedness might become permanent (although she notes that it’s still a matter of debate whether or not the problem is reversible). Ms. Sweeney says the American Optometric Association warns that it might not be, while the American Academy of Ophthalmology, an M.D. association, considers CVS to be a temporary, day-to-day annoyance that improves as soon as you take some time away from staring at a screen.

Personally, at least until I got my iPad 26 months ago, I had mostly set up my computer workstations with the screen at least three feet away from my sitting position, and even using laptops at home, this is accomplished with having an external keyboard and laptop stand to elevate the computer screen to a comfortable and relaxed elevation. However, I mostly use my iPad with the virtual on-screen keyboard, which of course necessitates much closer-range viewing, and I have frequently noted the CVS blurry vision syndrome after iPad sessions.

A lifelong bookworm, I’ve been myopic since I was eight (more than 50 years ago). Over nearly 20 years of computer use, I was able to manage with standard single vision eyeglasses, probably thanks in part to my practise of sitting farther away from the screen than most people do. However, about four years ago I gave in and got a pair of bifocals that combined mid-range (or “computer”) and reading distance correction. About six months after getting the iPad, I was obliged to get my bifocals prescription changed, with the former mid-range correction having become longer-range and my single vision specs only useful for really long range as in at least 10 feet away. So, I’ve wound up juggling three pairs of eyeglasses with five correction strengths. I’ve attributed this mainly to the process of aging, but in hindsight, so to speak, I’m beginning to suspect that close screen viewing may also have had something to do with the deterioration.


Even younger, normal-sighted users who spend a lot of time in front of computer screens may find greater comfort and fewer eyestrain issues by wearing computer glasses for screen viewing. Reportedly, the stress of focusing on mid-range or near objects over long periods can induce an effect “accommodative spasms” which may in turn result in increased or premature myopia or short-sightedness. Wearing computer glasses decreases accommodative effort and can help prevent or delay vision deterioration. An option to bifocals is single-vision mid-range — pure “computer glasses,” but eyeglass-wearers will need another pair of specs, since both distant objects and reading materials closer than the computer screen will be blurred.


A “do-all” solution is trifocal glasses with three lens planes, combining an upper segment for distance vision, a lower/bottom one for close work, and a third one for mid-range or screen distance in between. The downside of this is limited continuity of vision and peripheral distortion greater than with bifocals or single vision lenses. A trifocal variant is occupational “readables” with a relatively larger center zone for mid-range computer distance and proportionately smaller lower and upper zones for reading/close work and focusing at about 10 feet for “room-type vision” respectively. However, “readables” are not intended for driving and such because they don’t support true distance focus.

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