Optometry Practice

Christl Huber M.D.
Optometry · Natural Medicine

Myopia and Smartphones?

Worldwide experts observe a significant increase of nearsightedness (myopia), especially in Asian countries. In Germany the proportion of people with myopia is currently 35-40 percent. However, it is expected to increase significantly, as was pointed out at the Congress of German Ophthalmologists in October 2015.

Prof. Lagrèze of the University Eye Hospital Freiburg said, "Probably, the reasons are because of changing play and recreational activities and increased use of smartphones and tablets connected to intensive learning behavior in rooms that offer little daylight." According to current estimates in Germany 10 percent of three-year-olds and 50 percent of eight-year-olds are regularly online and staring at their gadgets.

In the US, Prof. DiMartino, at Berkeley University warned, "While we can reach the whole world with our fingertips, we spend a lot of time focusing our eyes in the near distance."

What makes the eye nearsighted?

Myopia is a genetic condition that is inherited. The eyeball is longer than with normal vision and the vision is blurred in the distance. However, objects at near distance are seen sharply.

Normal eyes must accommodate to see clearly in the near field. Here, the lens automatically adjusts to different distances. Myopic eyes need less or no accommodation to see well in the near field.

Focusing at near over long periods of time, the accommodation is overused and the eyes must adjust to this new normal. This occurs in adults around ages between 20 to 50 and is called artificial shortsightedness. The eye lens remains in a state of near focusing and the eyes are no longer relaxed. This state is known for some time, is exacerbated by stress, but is reversible when relaxation is back.

Where does the increase of myopia come from?

People have always read a lot and worked at close range without there was a dramatic increase in myopia. One explanation for the increase in myopia is the usage of smartphones and tablets. These devices are relatively small, available anytime and anywhere, are often used for a long time and held close to the eyes. As a result, the eyes hardly move from a fixed near status.

Consequences for children

Children's eyes are growing and visual perception must be learned. To develop good visual perception the eyes, the nervous system, and the visual center in the brain need a variety of different visual impressions from different distances and directions. However, if the primary visual impressions are limited to close range, this represents a growth incentive for the child's eye. The eyeball is elongated resulting in short-sightedness.

The increase of myopia is observed also in adults. Many scientists have another explanation. The blue light of mobile devices has a particularly high stimulatory effect. For some time, we have known that blue LED light displays activated retinal cells and affect the growth in the length of the eyeball.

Myopia is inherited AND environmentally influenced

There are many indications that myopia is not only inherited but can also be caused by external influences. Children are particularly at risk if they spend a lot of time indoors, in artificial light and focusing on small smartphones. It is now an established fact that children who spend a lot of time outdoors are rarely nearsighted.

Outdoor activities like exercise, play and sports have a positive effect on the development of vision. The eyes are constantly moving between different distances and directions, focusing sharply and scanning unconsciously at the same time. The perception at the periphery is vital to detect sudden dangers in side views.

Our eyes need a balance between focusing in the near and distant vision.


  • Develops between the ages of 6 to 8
  • Must be corrected at an early stage so that the brain can properly perceive what the eyes see
  • Cannot be cured by training
  • Children should, if possible, spend at least one hour a day outdoors
  • Adults can relax their eyes by visual pauses and eye exercises
  • Children and adults need a break of at least 5-10 minutes for each hour of work at near distance

Myopia must, like any other refractive error, be corrected to provide a good visual impression to the brain.