Researchers warn eye damage caused by screens can be deadly

It’s time to put your phone down.

Researchers at the Buck Institute, a nonprofit in California that investigates matters related to aging and age-related disease, found that eye damage caused by too much screen time can lead to damage to other vital organs and even a shortened life span.

Professor Pankaj Kapahi, Ph.D., and Brian Hodge, Ph.D. published their findings in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Communications, noting the severity of eye damage.

“Our study argues that it is more than correlation: Dysfunction of the eye can actually drive problems in other tissues,” Kapahi said in a release.

Woman using mobile device in kitchen at home
Researchers in California found that eye damage due to an over-exposure of light could lead to chronic diseases and a shorter life span.
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He and Hodge studied the patterns of fruit flies and found that over-exposure to light in the eyes can disrupt the circadian rhythm, which in turn can cause or worsen chronic disease.

Further research found that flies that were kept entirely in the dark lived than those that were not, longer signaling that the impacts on the circadian cycle can have negative effects on life span.

Male entrepreneur text messaging while sitting at desk.
Too much screen time can disrupt the circadian clock, which can be detrimental to one’s health.
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“The finding that the eye itself, at least in the fruit fly, can directly regulate life span was a surprise to us,” Hodge said in a release. He noted that the link between eye damage and life span is stronger in fruit flies than in humans, but it is still a matter of potential concern.

The eyes are continuously exposed to the outside world with immune defenses that are critically active. Light can even enter the eyes through closed eyelids when sleeping. Over-exposure to light can lead to inflammation, which when present for extended periods of time can cause or worsen an array of common chronic diseases.

“Staring at computer and phone screens, and being exposed to light pollution well into the night are very disturbing conditions for circadian clocks,” Kapahi explained. “It messes up protection for the eye and that could have consequences beyond just the vision, damaging the rest of the body and the brain.”

Every cell in the body operates on a circadian clock, an internally driven 24-hour rhythm that often runs longer than 24 hours but resets every day by the sun’s cycle.

A person’s circadian clock sets the timing for many important bodily functions such as sleep cycles, hormonal activity, body temperature rhythm, eating and digesting. Too much light can disrupt a person’s clock, leading to changes in many important bodily functions.

These findings are particularly concerning the screen time has drastically increased for many since the COVID pandemic began. Parents reported that children’s screen time jumped from 0.75 hours to as high as 6.5 hours per day due to online school-based requirements, Science Table reported.

“We always think of the eye as something that serves us, to provide vision. We don’t think of it as something that must be protected to protect the whole organism,” Kapahi noted.

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