Dr. Ralph Chu, MD talks with NBC News about the effects of staring at phone screens for too long.
Host 1: Let’s face it, we’re all spending a lot more time staring at screens. Smartphones, computers, tablets, and for kids addicted to their phones, there’s a new danger that doctors are concerned about now. All that screen time is prematurely aging their eyes and the damage could be permanent. Our medical correspondent, Dr. John Torres explains.
Eva Weber: We’ve been Snapchatting for 239 days in a row.
Dr. John Torres: 239 days in a row?
Eva Weber: Mm-hmm.
Dr. John Torres: 13 year old Eva Weber says she’s on her smartphone at least eight hours a day chatting with friends, taking photos, even using it for homework.
Eva Weber: If I’m bored, I’ll go on my phone and just look up things to do when you’re bored.
Jenna Weber: She usually carries her phone charger with her because she’s on her phone so much that we have to stop and charge phones.
Dr. John Torres: But Eva is now trying to hang up on her phone habit. Her eyes have become so irritated, she has trouble with her vision.
Jenna Weber: Last week, she took a test and she openly said to me, “By the end of the three hours, my eyes were so tired that I just didn’t even care if I was getting the answers wrong.”
Dr. John Torres: Eva is diagnosed with a condition typically found in aging adults, not teenagers, dry eye syndrome. When tears don’t provide enough moisture.
Dr. Ralph Chu: This is actually Eva’s eye between blinks.
Dr. John Torres: So she has dry eye everywhere?
Dr. Ralph Chu: This is like an aging eye. So you see this commonly in people who are in their fifties and sixties, but now in children who are using their smartphones a lot, we’re seeing this more and more.
Dr. John Torres: How can a smartphone dry out the eye? Staring at screens makes you blink less, so tears evaporate faster and tears are key to good eye health.
Dr. Ralph Chu: I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions is that tears don’t do very much except for keep the eye moist. The tear level on the eye is the most important thing for helping a patient see the best that they can.
Dr. Ralph Chu: Let’s go back over to this eye here.
Dr. John Torres: Ophthalmologist Dr. Ralph Chu has been seeing so many dry eye cases lately, he now recommends the 20, 20, 20 rule. Every 20 minutes stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. That along with eyedrops has helped Eva Weber get some relief. Though like most teens, she still can’t put her phone down for too long.
Dr. John Torres: Say ahh..
Eva Weber: Ahhh.
Dr. John Torres: A smarter way to keep eyes young and healthy. Dr. John Torres, NBC news, New Market, Minnesota.
Host 1: Maybe just put the phone down every once in a while.