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Five ways technology is negatively affecting your body and how you can help yourself now

(Photo credit: kizilkayaphotos/iStock.com)

Many of us have love-hate relationships with our electronic devices — although it can feel like your job follows you around 24/7, it can also be immensely satisfying to tie up the day’s loose ends with that last essential email from home.

But how does being constantly plugged in to work stack up health-wise? Read on for  five technology-linked medical conditions doctors are seeing more of.

5. Text neck

Throwing your back out at work is so 20th century! These days, throwing your neck out is the latest fad — and you can blame it on your cell phone.

Tilting your head forward at a 45-degree angle to gaze at your screen all day more than quadruples its weight on your cervical spine, which can lead to pain, pinched nerves, a permanent forward hunch or even herniated discs that can land you in the operating room.

Tips

  • Hold your phone with both hands at eye level or look down without craning your neck to keep it properly aligned.
  • Don’t forget to take frequent stretch breaks.

4. Electronic screen syndrome

Feeling scattered, tired and irritable after long hours at the office? The culprit may be your computer screen.

Originally proposed as a condition that affects children, overuse of electronic media can also overstimulate the adult brain and wear out its capacity to focus, causing insomnia, poor short-term memory, and trouble regulating emotions.

Not surprisingly, doctors typically tell patients recovering from concussions to avoid screen time for faster healing.

Tips

  • Schedule screen breaks like phone calls or pen-and-paper work throughout the day to avoid a buildup of brain fatigue. 
  • Be sure to rest and recharge by heading outside for some green time on your lunch hour or coffee break.

3. Phantom vibration syndrome

If you’ve ever felt a phantom cellphone buzz, you’re not alone — up to 90 per cent of adults have experienced this annoying phenomenon.

Not quite a true hallucination, this trick sensation occurs when your brain misinterprets common stimuli like clothing brushing against your leg or muscle spasms as coming from your device.

Interestingly, a 2014 study from Taiwan suggested that workers with higher levels of occupational burnout were more likely to be afflicted by it.

Tips

  • Take your mobile off vibrate mode and keep it on your desk or in your bag to retrain your brain. 
  • If you do notice an increase in bogus buzzing, consider it a sign that you may need to step back and focus on your mental wellbeing.

2. Smartphone blindness

Not only can late-night texting eat away at your sleep, but it can also wreak havoc on your vision.

Astute physicians recently realized that some patients who complained about recurrent one-eyed vision loss happened to be using their phones in the dark while the other eye was hidden behind a pillow — and when they powered down, the phone-exposed eye went ‘blind’ for several minutes as it readjusted to the surrounding darkness.

Given that transient unilateral vision loss (temporary blindness in one eye) can also be chalked up to serious conditions like strokes, nerve disease or abnormal blood flow, this is definitely one symptom you want to avoid.

Tips

  • Turn your phone off before you dim the lights for optimal rest and eyesight.
  • If you must text in bed, keep both eyes on the screen.

1. Toasted skin syndrome

Also known as “erythema ab igne,” this lacy, purplish-brown rash is caused by repeated exposure to radiant heat. Although historically it was often seen on the shins of little old ladies who warmed themselves by the fire, these days it’s more commonly found on the upper legs of people who use their laptops too much.

Scientists believe that chronic, low-level heat exposure damages small blood vessels, which then leak iron compounds into the skin, causing the discolouration. Bear in mind that these tissue changes aren’t just cosmetic — research shows that over time they can increase your risk of skin cancer.

Tip

  • Slide a lap desk or mat between your laptop and legs to keep things cool.

 

This article was originally published June 1, 2017.

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