Physicians are starting to see an increase in technology-related ailments such as “BlackBerry thumb,” “cell phone elbow,” “computer vision syndrome,” and “Facebook depression,” according to a recent article in Amednews.com. While some doctors are inquiring more closely about patient’s use of personal technology, others find diagnosing technology-related health problems challenging. The most common complaints are vision problems and elbow, thumb and wrist pain due to overuse of cell phones, computers and handheld electronic devices.
Vision problems include dry eye syndrome and computer vision syndrome, which can occur when people stare at a computer screen for long periods without interruption. Even rising rates of myopia are being blamed on computer use, on the theory that doing more close work may increase nearsightedness. Similarly, rising rates of high-frequency hearing loss in adolescents are being linked to use of iPods and other personal listening devices.
Other health problems related to portable technology include thumb pain and numbness from typing on handheld keyboards, and cubital tunnel syndrome, which involves nerve problems in the elbow due to holding cell phones for prolonged periods. Mental health can be affected too: “Facebook depression” may result when people substitute online interaction for face-to-face friendships. Another concern physicians cited was the safety risk of texting and talking on cell phones while driving.