Special Report: Exploring the ailments brought on by technology

While there are many benefits to living in a world where we can be connected to each other with...
While there are many benefits to living in a world where we can be connected to each other with the help our electronics, the addiction to screens is causing us to stop recognizing the signs of over exposure.(technology tsr)
Published: Sep. 24, 2019 at 1:38 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Technology, when you look around, it’s everywhere. At work, home, even some restaurants have televisions in the seating area. We have become a society that is surrounded by screens and we depend on them throughout our day.

However, when is the last time you wondered the role technology plays in some of the things happening internally?

“No more phone phobia” or Nomophobia. It’s a relatively new word used to describe the fear of being without your phone or not being able to use your phone. Dr. Scott Riviere is a therapist who believes society is so wrapped up in technology that it is now an addiction for many people.

“Addiction means it takes more of that same behavior to produce the original effect," child/adolescent counselor Scott Riviere said. "So our phones a lot of times give us a false perception with other people.”

While there are many benefits to living in a world where we can be connected to each other with the help our electronics, the addiction to screens is causing us to stop recognizing the signs of over exposure.

“What we are seeing in the mental health field is a pretty big spike in anxiety and depression and our ability to retain short term information, because now we really don’t have to because our phone is a substitute for short and long term memory,” Riviere said.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Have you noticed a change in your vision over the last several years?

“Before we just had books or TV or a car so, we were focused on totally different things all day long," optometrist Dr. Melvin Gehrig said. "In today’s technology, about a third of the population is on their phone or computers like eight hours a day.”

That type of long term exposure puts a strain on our eyes that cause plenty of problems.

“We have more headache problems, eye strain problems, double vision problems, we seem to become more nearsighted,” Gehrig said.

In recent years, Dr. Gehrig has seen an increase of patients suffering from dry eyes.

“Looking straight ahead at a computer, because we are staring a lot more, our blink rates drop about 50-percent," Gehrig said. "So, we are blinking about half as much as we used to which can cause a dry eye problem.”

He says pushing through the dry eyes is one thing, but continuing to stare at a blue light emitting screen can cause something worse.

“The lens of the eye which gradually as we get older turns into a cataract, this can actually happen earlier because of the blue light effect on the retina," Gehrig said. "So, we can actually have cataracts earlier than before, so a lot of the things are actually changing our whole eye system.”

With all that looking down at your phone and tablets, posture for some people is gradually getting worse.

“I see this hunched over posture that’s way more prevalent now than it was say five or ten years ago," orthopeidic surgeon Dr. Brett Cascio said. "The more hunched over you are, you restrict the volume of your lungs and your abdomen. A healthier posture is better for your lower back. Your shoulders, your abdominal muscles.”

Dr. Cascio says your hands and fingers are also being effected by all that scrolling, taping the home button and liking those Instagram posts.

“Just like any other machine, you only have so much millage on your machine and if you start to over use it or use it in a way that it was not intended, you get pain,” Cascio said.

Cascio is starting to see more patients presenting with early signs of carpel tunnel.

“Most troubling thing I saw was a young teenage girl with carpel tunnel syndrome from using the phone," Cassio said.

Children and adolescence are especially prone to all of these ailments and more because their brains and bodies are not fully developed.

“In little kids a lot of times you will see an increase in aggression and impulsive behavior," Riviere said. "That is a pretty common side effect of too much screen time.”

“They really are concerned about their life and how different it is from that positive stuff they see on screens and so they start withdrawing and so they are not getting out and interacting with friends,” Pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Treme said.

Treme says parents are constantly saying their children are spending too much time with technology, so much so that it’s effecting their sleep.

“If you’re scrolling through your phone in the evening time, you’re not going to sleep when you should," Treme said. "That blue light that gets emitted from the screen, any screens, it tells your body not to make the melatonin you should be making to help you go to sleep. So kids often suffer from insomnia, they can’t fall asleep or even if they are sleeping through the night they aren’t getting restful sleep.”

With a lack of sleep, grades drop and so does motivation to be active.

“So they are gaining weight and that’s not necessarily something you will see right away but when you’re coming in for your check up and we see those numbers going up and up," Treme said. "That’s when we start to intervene and say we need to get the screen time down.”

With the amount of time spent on social media, texting, calling, even checking news media sites, society is not connecting the time spent on technology to some of the pains we feel daily. However, once we recognize the problem, how can we fix the damage done to our bodies.

“Number one thing is artificial tears, second thing we look for is blue light deflector into the actual glasses so that’s one and every once in a while look away from the computer and look back, as a chance to refocus at a different distance," Gehrig said.

“You need to have a back maintenance program, you need to stretch every day, you need to do sit-ups a few times of week at least, and you have to have good posture,” Cascio said.

As for handling your child’s exposure to screen time.

“The role model that we provide for our kids in our own usage of technology makes a real powerful statement for a kid," Riviere said. "If they see us on our phones all the time, it’s really hard for them to get the message that this kind of behavior is not okay.”

Dr. Treme said keeping your child’s device in your room will also make sure they dont have distractions while trying to sleep.

If you’re a parent and need help cutting back your child’s exposure to technology.

Check out the websites below that provides ways to help cut back on technology usage.

Healthy Children

Create Family Media Plan

Protecting Your Eyes

Back Maintenance Exercises

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