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'Smartphone squint' from small-screen usage

May 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Texting, tweeting and checking email all day -- this overuse of technology appears to be causing havoc on our eyes and skin. Some doctors have dubbed this phenomenon the "smartphone squint."

Sydney Duriux's job keeps her on the go and she relies on her smartphone to keep her in the loop.

"I'm looking at my phone nearly, I would say, from 9 a.m. until about 11 p.m. looking at my email on my phone or my text or I'm trying to text back or read the news," she said.

But lately she's noticed some fine lines and wrinkles, and she blames them on that tiny screen.

"Smartphones induce you to squint during the daytime and that contracts the muscles around your face," said Dr. Lucian Del Priore, professor of clinical ophthalmology at Columbia University and attending surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Doctors believe the smartphone squint can lead to eye strain and dry eyes, as well as fine lines and wrinkles.

"With the ease and convenience comes some consequences," said Dr. Robert Grant, plastic surgeon-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

He said some people are even opting for so-called "BlackBerry Botox" to stop the wrinkling.

"These medicines partially block the muscle from contracting and since the muscle around the eye can't contract, the fine line and wrinkle can't appear," said Dr. Grant.

He explained retinols, both over-the-counter and prescription, can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. But, he says, in this case prevention is the best medicine.

"There's lots of things you can do to adjust the settings on your BlackBerry to avoid having to squint. You can make the font size bigger, have the print appear larger on the screen," said Dr. Grant.

You can turn down the lights in the room or go inside, which increases the contrast and lessens eye strain. Also reduce the brightness setting on your phone. And don't underestimate the importance of taking a break.

"Just the simple act of looking away from the phone and looking at something in the distance every 15 or 20 minutes or so take away from the strain on the eye muscles," said Dr. Del Priore.

He advised smartphone use does not cause any eye disease or degeneration, but it can exacerbate symptoms for those with existing conditions.

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