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Fermanagh woman (26) ‘temporarily blinded' by using smartphone at night

A Fermanagh woman was left temporarily blinded after using her smartphone late at night. It is believed she suffered from the rare condition "Transient Smartphone Blindness" (picture posed)
Gareth McKeown

A 26-year-old Fermanagh woman was left temporarily blind in her right eye after using her smartphone late at night.

A recent medical study shows it is possible for it to induce temporary vision loss, known as 'Transient Smartphone Blindness'.

The Fermanagh woman, who works as a management consultant in London, went blind temporarily in her right eye two weeks ago on Tuesday, October 18.

"I was lying in bed on my side reading on my kindle app on my mobile phone at around 11.45pm. It was when I stopped reading and then turned out the light that I lost sight in my right eye - totally for one to two minutes and partially for up to 15 minutes," she told the Irish News.

"I was quite worried and burst into tears immediately. However it returned, at least partially, quite quickly. So I knew I wasn’t going blind.

"I called NHS Direct who asked lots of questions. They walked me through a couple of exercises such as raising my arms, check my face hadn’t sagged on one side things like that. I think they suspected I had taken a stroke but there were no other symptoms," she continued.

The Fermanagh woman, who doesn't want to be identified, was referred to Moorfield's Eye Hospital in London the following day, where a doctor suggested she may be suffering from ‘Transient Smartphone Blindness’ as he had read about it in a medical journal.

"The doctors think that it is only likely to happen if you are lying on one side, and one eye is covered, by your pillow for example. In this case one eye is in darkness and one eye is absorbing a very bright light. When the bedroom light goes off the two eyes have difficultly ‘matching up’ and one eye experiences a perceived blindness," she said

Although an unconfirmed case at this stage Transient Smartphone Blindness is extremely rare and first came to prominence in the New England Journal of Medicine in June.

Doctors detailed the cases of the two women, aged 22 and 40, who complained of recurring episodes of temporary vision loss for up to 15 minutes.

The women explained they would continuously check their smartphones while lying on their sides – with one eye covered by the pillow and one eye focussing on the bright screen.

Study author Dr Gordon Plant, a neurologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said smartphone related blindness was on the rise.

"I see patients every two or three months with similar stories," he said.

"In the past we would see this come up if patients lay in bed watching TV, but smartphones are making it much more common because more people are looking at their gadgets last thing at night," he added.

Medical experts believe the temporary blindness is ultimately harmless, and easily avoidable.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People Northern Ireland described it as a "temporary, rare occurrence", but warned people to stick to looking at their smartphone with two eyes.

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