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“Transient smartphone blindness” is officially a thing, two cases detailed already

Doctors in the UK have identified a new condition dubbed "transient smartphone blindness" based on the cases of two separate women.

Published onJune 23, 2016


Two separate women in the UK have presented to hospital suffering what has now become known as temporary smartphone blindness. Fearing a stroke or other serious condition, the unrelated women underwent a series of complicated and expensive tests before being referred to an eye specialist. The specialist’s diagnosis? One-eyed smartphone usage in bed.

Artist portrays disturbing images of faces being absorbed by smartphones

It turns out temporary smartphone blindness is more common that you might expect, with the issue being detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine today. The problem occurs, simply enough, because one eye becomes accustomed to the brightness of the smartphone display while the other – usually obscured by a pillow – stays accustomed to darkness.

Those affected can suffer from temporary blindness for up to 15 minutes.

When the smartphone is turned off the ill-adjusted eyes can’t correct for the difference and you end up “blinded”. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this temporary condition is that those affected can suffer from temporary blindness for up to 15 minutes. More than enough time to have a suitable freak-out and make a trip to the nearest hospital.

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Fortunately, the eye specialist involved said transient smartphone blindness represents no real danger because the eyes naturally correct themselves eventually. Of course, the issue could be avoided entirely by using both eyes while using your phone in the dark, or simply turning on a light, or just not using your phone once you get into bed at all.

Night Mode, included in the OnePlus 3 and likely in Android N, might also help alleviate the problem. You can achieve similar results with an app like Twilight but it must be noted that the cause is not purely the brightness of the display, but the fact that only one eye is being used to read.

Despite the diagnosis, one woman still couldn't refrain from checking her phone in bed afterward.

Nevertheless, following the specialist’s revelation, one of the women didn’t believe it was possible, suspecting something far more dire, and kept a journal for months tracking the onset of her blind episodes before she finally accepted the diagnosis as true. But despite suffering through a worrying symptom and possessing the means to avoid it, she still couldn’t refrain from checking her phone in bed.

A spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology said two cases were hardly enough to constitute proof that one-eyed smartphone usage in bed is the root cause behind transient smartphone blindness. But at least if you suffer from something similar you may not have to go through the stress of suspecting you’re having a stroke. And if you’re at all concerned, please consult your doctor.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever suffered from temporary blindness at night?

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