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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 55  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 154-155

Transient smartphone blindness

Department of Geriatric Medicine, Glan Clwyd Hospital, North Wales, LL18 5UJ, UK

Date of Web Publication26-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Dr. V Adhiyaman
Glan Clwyd Hospital, North Wales, LL18 5UJ
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/tjosr.tjosr_27_17

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Transient smartphone blindness is a temporary phenomenon where a person develops visual loss in one eye following prolonged exposure to a bright smartphone screen in the dark. It is caused by differential bleaching of the retinal pigment. Awareness of this condition and a careful history is important to make the correct diagnosis.

Keywords: Digital display unit, transient visual loss, smart phone

How to cite this article:
Adhiyaman V. Transient smartphone blindness. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res 2017;55:154-5

How to cite this URL:
Adhiyaman V. Transient smartphone blindness. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Jul 10];55:154-5. Available from: http://www.tnoajosr.com/text.asp?2017/55/2/154/221452

A 25-year-old-man had loss of vision in his right eye at night. He had been lying on his left side and looking at his smartphone for 30 min. When he had switched the light off, he was unable to see anything through his right eye. But he was able to see when he switched the light back on and his symptoms recovered in 20 min.

A 36-year-old woman had an episode of visual loss in her right eye in the middle of the night. She had woken up at night and was unable to get back to sleep. She was playing on her smartphone for over an hour and when she switched the light off, she had poor vision in the right eye for 5 min during which she could only see shapes. She eventually fell asleep, and her vision was normal when she woke up. They were both diagnosed as transient ischemic attacks (TIA) and were advised to take aspirin and a statin by their primary care physicians.[1]

Another 58-year-old female had 2 episodes of transient unilateral vision loss and had been diagnosed as a case of multiple sclerosis (MS) and was recommended to start disease-modifying therapy.[2]

All these patients had developed visual symptoms at night after looking at the bright screens of their smartphones for a long time. They were eventually diagnosed to have transient smartphone blindness (TSB) following careful history and spared of unnecessary drugs and interventions.

TSB was first appeared in the medical literature in 2016.[3] Transient unilateral visual loss after using a smartphone at night is due to differential bleaching of photopigment, and resolution of symptoms after a brief period is due to the time taken for the scotopic recovery after a bleach. Two researchers proved their theory by monocularly viewing a smartphone at arm's length and demonstrated that it took several minutes for the visual sensitivity to recover.[3]

The diagnosis is dependent on eliciting the important history of exposure to smartphones in the dark for a long time and realizing that the symptoms are not typical of a TIA or MS. With a typical history, no further investigations would be needed and assurance should be enough.

As smartphones with very high luminance have become a part of one's life, this physiological phenomenon of TSB should be kept in mind before diagnosing more serious disorders. Failure to do this would mean these people would be advised to take drugs for the rest of their lives.

Other dangerous consequences due to improper use of smartphones include traffic accidents caused by “smartphone zombies” and selfie-related injuries and deaths. Half of selfie-related deaths in 2015 happened in India. Some countries have traffic lights on the road at pedestrian crossings and have dedicated pavements for smartphone zombies (See [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]). Nomophobia is the phobia (or anxiety) of being out of cellular phone contact, and it affects majority of cell phone users.
Figure 1: Smartphone crossing

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Figure 2: Smartphone sidewalk

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Computer vision syndrome (digital eye strain) is another recognized entity which encompasses a wide range of visual symptoms that result from prolonged computer, tablet, and smartphone use.[4]

I urge people to use their smartphones sensibly as the phone is only as smart as the person using it and there is no point in dying for a selfie.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Alim-Marvasti A, Bi W, Mahroo OA, Barbur JL, Plant GT. Transient smartphone “Blindness”. N Engl J Med 2016;374:2502-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
Irshad F, Adhiyaman V. Transient smartphone blindness. Can J Ophthalmol 2017;52:e107-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Sathiamoorthi S, Wingerchuk DM. Transient smartphone blindness: Relevance to misdiagnosis in neurologic practice. Neurology 2017;88:809-10.  Back to cited text no. 3


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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