How to Blind Yourself: the Smartphone Edition

17468693762_887f7f42d2_hDo you know how your mom told you not to stare at a screen while sitting in a darkened room? Well, two smartphone owners have found an even worse way to misuse their mobile devices.

The Guardian has a report on an academic paper which details the experiences of two women who managed to blind themselves by using their smartphones late at night:

In Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, doctors detailed the cases of the two women, ages 22 and 40, who experienced “transient smartphone blindness” for months.

The women complained of recurring episodes of temporary vision loss for up to 15 minutes. They were subjected to variety of medical exams, MRI scans and heart tests. Yet doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with them to explain the problem.

But minutes after walking into an eye specialist’s office, the mystery was solved. “I simply asked them, ’What exactly were you doing when this happened?’” recalled Dr. Gordon Plant of Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London. He explained that both women typically looked at their smartphones with only one eye while resting on their side in bed in the dark — their other eye was covered by the pillow.

“So you have one eye adapted to the light because it’s looking at the phone and the other eye is adapted to the dark,” he said. When they put their phone down, they couldn’t see with the phone eye. That’s because “it’s taking many minutes to catch up to the other eye that’s adapted to the dark,” Plant said.

The only surprising detail about this story is that they didn’t already know what would happen if you shined a bright light into one eye while keeping the other covered.

I did, but then again I also had an older sibling who would use this trick to temporarily blind and bewilder the younger children. (It wasn’t nice, no, but it was a learning experience.)

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Nate Hoffelder

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Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. R Coots24 June, 2016

    Yup. Absolutely done that before. Just a couple weeks ago in fact. And ya know what? I figured out what I’d done to myself all on my own. Teach me to read while using a big mushy pillow.

  2. Chris Meadows24 June, 2016

    I’ve done the same thing myself—and then I just winked the eye I’d used for checking the phone shut again and looked out the other one. I gather it’s a common trick used by soldiers to preserve partial night vision when they have to look at something bright momentarily.

    1. Nate Hoffelder24 June, 2016

      I’ve probably done it to myself as well.

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