The last thing any of us want is to age before we have to. Whether it’s through magazine covers or websites, we’re bombarded with “miracles” and “cures” for aging. The harsh truth is there is no cure to aging, especially when it comes to eye health. You can use anti-aging cream for your skin, Spanx for your body, but there is no remedy for aging eyes. There are things you can do to slow the progression of aging eyes, but for the time being, once your vision declines due to age, it stays that way.
Smartphones have been criticized on numerous accounts for causing digital eye strain, and now they’re under investigation for potentially causing premature presbyopia. Misaki Ishioka, of the Misaki Eye Clinic in Tokyo has noticed a sudden surge of presbyopia, an age-related vision condition, in people ages 20 to 30. Ishioka, wondering what could possibly be causing old eyes in young people has a hunch: smartphones.
What is Presbyopia?
One certainty in life is that we all age no matter what. We can do our best to slow the process, but age catches up to us eventually. The same applies to your eyes. Presbyopia is a natural aging condition that comes to fruition usually after you turn 40. More specifically, it’s a condition which affects your eye’s ability to focus on objects close to the eye. This is caused by the loss of flexibility in the eye’s lens.
Presbyopia is a natural step in the aging of your eyes and because of this, there is no permanent cure. You can, of course, temporarily improve the condition with eyeglasses or even through natural treatments like daily eye exercises and simply adapting your daily life to your eyes’ needs (for example, setting a larger font size on your cellphone).
Whether you’re old or young, it’s important to know the symptoms of presbyopia. Knowing how to spot presbyopia will help you avoid prolonged headaches and eyestrain. The sooner you spot it, the sooner you can start treating it.
Some warning signs may include:
- Difficulty focusing on reading material at arm’s length
- Difficulty reading small or fine print
- Difficulty making out objects in front of you
Though there’s no guarantee any of these symptoms are presbyopia, it’s best to make an appointment with your eye doctor. Your doctor will be able to perform a dilated eye exam.
How Smartphones Affect Your Eyes
We have all been warned not to stare at screens for too long, be it by a health professional, our parents, or an article we may have found online. Whether acting on fact or common sense, there is some truth to what you’ve heard. Staring at a smartphone for too long and too close can have some serious repercussions on your eyes.
If you work in an office, you’ve likely been warned about digital eye strain or Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), a condition often developed from the prolonged use of screens (whether it is a smartphone, computer, television, etc.). Our blog has covered CVS many a time. We won’t go over it much here, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
Smartphones and Presbyopia
According to a Vision Watch survey done in 2014, three in 10 adults spend nine or more hours on digital devices. Though the term “digital devices” is rather general and covers a broad spectrum of devices, our smartphones are our go-to device first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
In 2015, it was found that 86 percent of U.S. adults (aged 18 to 29) owned a smartphone, making it the most owned digital device. Of course, this is no surprise to anyone. Smartphones are handheld computers that fit in your pocket. You can take them anywhere and have anything you can imagine right at your fingertips. The real surprise is that the number is not much higher.
Though this statistic may not represent how smartphones are affecting young eyes, it is a clear indication that more studies need to be done on how these tiny screens can have a serious impact on our eye health.
Eye conditions and diseases related to smartphone are believed to be caused by several factors:
- Text and images on the screen are small; forcing our eyes to adjust and focus which prolonged use can lead to strain.
- The distance we hold our smartphones at from our eyes is too close. Unlike a book or a magazine, we often hold our phones a solid five inches closer, causing more stress on the eyes.
- The screen is too bright. Even with adjustable brightness, a lot of us keep our phones at 100 percent brightness especially in poorly lit rooms. Again, this contrast of light can cause headaches due to eye strain.
Where does presbyopia fit in exactly? Well, though it is true that excessive smartphone use causes an extreme amount of strain, your eyes’ crystalline lens which helps you focus, is also being over worked. As mentioned in the above section, presbyopia is caused by the thickening of the lens due to age which is what is speculated to happen to young eyes when smartphone use is abused.
Young eyes are increasingly at risk of developing early presbyopia that, if it’s anything like regular presbyopia, may not be able to be reversed. This is a bigger problem today as smartphones continue to become more and more sophisticated and harder for people to resist. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way around early presbyopia.
How to Protect Your Eyes
The best way to protect your eyes is through preventative measures. Not always, but most of the time your vision has trouble bouncing back to what it once was. Why wait for your vision to get to the point of no return when you can take a few cautions to preserve your much needed vision?
First thing’s first: put down the smartphone. It won’t be easy to do, but we’re also not asking you quit cold turkey. Limit your smartphone use. The easiest way to do this is to set times of day that are strictly smartphone free. For example, during dinner or an hour before bed (to avoid that brightness contrast we talked about earlier).
If you do find yourself on a long commute to somewhere and don’t have any other source of entertainment other than your smartphone, we understand. We ask but one favor, just take a break from the screen every now and then.
One final way that will help strengthen the eyes and help those already afflicted with presbyopia is by making sure you’re getting the best vitamins and nutrients for your eyes. Your diet plays a major role in overall improved eye health.