It’s July 2018, and Ms. Chen feels the need to travel to a medical facility. She wants to see a doctor about her sore eyes, which started to bother her a few months before. After checking her over, though, the physicians then make a rather shocking diagnosis, which they tie back to Chen’s phone use.
Over the course of a normal day, most of us will look at our cell phones a number of times. Whether it’s to text someone or browse the internet when we get a spare moment, the devices get plenty of use. And as it turns out, Chen was no different in that regard.
A resident of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Chen plied her trade as a secretary. The role required her to have her phone at the ready for most of the day, while she also spent a lot of time outside. Then at some point in 2016, the young woman decided to dial up the brightness on her device to the maximum setting.
The setting remained the same for the next two years, as Chen continued to use her phone regularly. By March 2018, though, she started to feel some pain in her eyes, which steadily got worse going into the summer. And at that stage, the secretary eventually discovered the true cause of her ailment.
Before cell phones exploded in popularity across the world, staying connected with friends and loved ones was a bit of a challenge. Indeed, if we wanted to talk to someone who didn’t live in our area, we only had a couple of choices. We either contacted them via a landline, or sent them a written letter through the post.
However, those challenges are a thing of the past now thanks to cell phone technology. These portable devices allow us to talk to people from anywhere, whether we’re at home or outside. Alongside that, we have access to instant messaging on our phones today as well, keeping us all connected.
But outside of that, cell phones can be used for a number of other reasons too. For instance, most devices have built-in cameras now, meaning we can snap pictures whenever we feel like it. Furthermore, our phones can also connect to the internet, so we’re able to browse the web wherever we are.
Given that their phones have all these different features, people spend a lot of time on hem throughout a normal day. Unsurprisingly, that can become a problem if a user is on their phone too much. In fact, there are many health risks that come with excessive use of mobile devices.
And it’s an important issue because of the incredible popularity of mobile phones. Back in 2013, South University shared a truly incredible statistic that showed just how popular the devices were even during that period, and one can only imagine that they grow more ubiquitous as time goes by, with hardly any adults not having one.
It turns out that the International Telecommunication Union said that there were nearly six billion subscriptions to mobile phone services at the end of 2011. That represents nearly nine of every ten people worldwide. And those people are all risking developing one of several health problems that can be triggered by use of cell phones.
Researchers have looked into issues such as cancer, germs and electromagnetic radiation in the past. In addition to that, they’ve considered the links between cell phone use and alterations to users’ sleeping patterns. There is, though, one particular danger that people can run into when they’re using cell phones.
Data isn’t the only thing that can be carried by mobile phones. That’s because they also swarm with germs. Users put phones in all sorts of places where they can end up contaminated with invisible organisms. And one college has turned up a quite stomach-churning piece of information regarding this topic.
Researchers studying at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London discovered in 2011 that fecal matter had contaminated more than 15 percent of cell phones in one for or another. The most likely reason for this would be that the person who owned the phone hadn’t used soap to wash their hands after using the toilet.
But the group had more shocking revelations. As it turned out, they had found that a few of the devices that they looked at were infected with E. coli bacteria. These germs can lead to some real problems if a person picks them up, triggering symptoms such as diarrhea and sickness.
On that note, a group of students in South Carolina conducted a similar study some time later. Much like the previous researchers, they wanted to uncover the bacteria that phones harbor throughout their daily use. However, few people could’ve predicted what they eventually found in their study.
These researchers looked at 60 phones that were owned by students. They discovered that that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) often infected them. If skin is contaminated with staphyloccus, including MRSA, the person affected might rapidly develop a deep abscess that can be painful. And worse, the bacteria might end up burrowing further until right inside the body.
If this happens, the person infected faces infections that might threaten their life in such places as their lungs, the valves of their heart, their bones and joints and their bloodstream. The researchers advised people to use soap and water to wash their hands to avoid allowing their phones to come into contest with these dangerous bacteria.
Meanwhile, cell phones can prove hazardous in other ways too. For instance, there are drivers out there who can’t help but look at their devices behind the wheel, despite the dangers that that can cause. Ultimately, they’re putting themselves and their fellow motorists at risk of having an accident on the road.
Bearing that in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, better known as the CDC, conducted a bit of research into this matter. The health agency looked to draw a comparison between drivers in the U.S. and those from Europe. And in the end, the CDC uncovered some intriguing information.
The researchers revealed that more than two-thirds of drivers in the United States, aged from 18 up to 64, had used their phone to talk while behind the wheel in the month before being asked. And it seems as though Americans were among the worst offenders for this kind of behavior, with others racking up lower percentages.
Indeed, in Europe the scores were lower, with a fifth of U.K. drivers of the same ages using their phones. The number did rise to six out of ten Portuguese drivers, though. On top of that, nearly a third of Americans had used their phone to read or send emails or text messages while they were behind the wheel.
The latter statistic was matched by Portuguese drivers, while one in seven Spanish motorists confessed to being distracted in this way. As you can see, the figures were fairly concerning, but that’s not all. Those behind the wheel aren’t the only ones who need to mind their surroundings when they’re on the road.
Indeed, regular pedestrians can cause problems of their own when they’re gazing at their cell phones. Just like with drivers, the distraction could lead to an accident if someone isn’t aware of their surroundings. In fact, it’s believed that a third of people were staring at devices as they walked along roads in 2012.
But while these are all valid concerns, one other issue often crops up when discussing the risks of excessive cell phone use. Due to the brightness of the screens, people’s eyesight can suffer in the long run. This is sometimes referred to as “digital eye strain,” causing issues like blurry vision and irritation of the eyes.
For those of us who use our phones on a moderate basis, the aforementioned issues aren’t that surprising. After all, as an outsider looking in, we can see that the time you spend on your device might take its toll. In the case of Chen, though, no one could’ve foreseen the troubles that she endured in 2018.
As noted, Chen worked as a secretary in Kaohsiung, and her cell phone played an important role in her life. While working, the young lady needed to keep her device close by so that she could respond to any messages that came her way. Therefore, her eyes were already being put to the test each day.
On top of that, Chen spent a fair amount of time outside the office, which caused its own problems. For you see, the sun would often obscure her vision when she was trying to look at her phone screen. So with that in mind, the secretary made a seemingly innocuous decision back in 2016.
To make life a little easier, Chen decided to change the brightness of her phone to the maximum setting. That way, she’d be able to read any important messages from work very clearly, both inside and outside. However, the Kaohsiung resident made a fairly big mistake at the end of that particular day.
Chen forgot to change the settings back when she finished work, meaning that her phone was still working at maximum brightness. That might not have been a huge problem if she didn’t use her device that much at home, but that wasn’t the case. As it turned out, she was on it quite a bit.
While a lot of people watch their televisions in the evening, Chen had other ideas. With her phone in hand, she would view certain TV shows on that instead, sitting in total darkness. By doing that, she was exposing her eyes to the full beam of the device, which she was still unaware of.
Incredibly, this routine would continue for the next two years, with Chen none the wiser. But in March 2018 that all changed. At that point, the secretary’s eyes started to feel uncomfortable, prompting her to purchase some eye drops. From there, she persevered with the issue for another few months.
By July 2018, though, Chen was in desperate need of help. The discomfort that she previously felt had developed into full-blown pain, while her eyes became bloodshot as well. Given her predicament, the Taiwanese woman decided to visit the hospital during that period, as she hoped to get some answers.
Physicians at the facility subsequently examined Chen, and their findings proved to be shocking. Her left eye was said to be “congested with blood,” which had had an adverse effect on her vision. But the biggest concern was over the phone user’s right eye, as we’re about to discover.
The doctors noted that Chen had more than 500 holes in her right cornea, leaving her vision in a terrible state. Unsurprisingly, the phone’s brightness was blamed for causing this problem, with one expert sharing some sobering figures. After that, they also provided a rather vivid description when discussing the diagnosis.
When measuring visible light, the term “lumens” is used. Apparently, 325 lumens is the “recommended level” for most cell phones out there, but Chen’s device surpassed that once she had adjusted the settings. Since that fateful day in 2016, her phone had been giving off a massive reading of 625 lumens.
Keeping those numbers in mind, Chen’s condition shouldn’t have been that surprising. Furthermore, her doctor then conjured a somewhat graphic image as they talked about her eyes. “Using the phone with such brightness for over two hours means the eyes will have the same effect as being baked in a microwave,” they told Apple Daily in February 2019.
But Chen wasn’t the first person to suffer an extreme reaction to excessive phone use. For instance, a young Chinese woman named Wu faced a serious problem after she had played a mobile game for hours each day. After one particular session, she realized that she was losing vision in her right eye.
The situation then took a terrifying turn the next morning, as Wu was still blind in her right eye. She subsequently visited the hospital, where doctors informed her that she had “retinal artery obstruction.” Off the back of that diagnosis, she stayed at the facility while her physicians attempted to restore her sight.
“During my days off, I would wake up at 6:00 a.m., eat breakfast and start playing until around 4:00 p.m.,” Wu told Apple Daily of her gaming habits. “I would stop and eat something before taking a short nap, and continue playing until 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. Sometimes, I would even be too lazy to stop and eat.”
As for Chen, she received treatment soon after her shocking diagnosis in the summer of 2018. Given the damage to her eyes, the Kaohsiung resident was prescribed with steroids to help fix them. And thankfully for her, the drugs appeared to have a positive effect some three days later, hinting that she would recover.