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7 Ways High-Tech Gadgets Could Be Hurting You

Sure, they make life easier, but could all this technology be harmful to your health? WebMD gets the experts to weigh in.
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WebMD Feature

The computer revolution created new ways of working, sharing information, and having fun. Our high-tech gadgets and devices may be wonderfully expansive of our intellects, but they can be hard on our bodies. And being "always on" can take a toll on your health.

Here are seven ways technology and the high-tech lifestyle may be hurting you.

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1. Computer Vision Syndrome

The human eye is not adapted for staring at a single point in space for hours on end. If you log significant time in front of a computer monitor, you've probably experienced computer vision syndrome: eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred vision, and double vision. Luckily, this isn't a permanent condition; 

Protect your eye health by taking the following steps:

  • Make sure your glasses or contact lens prescription is up to date and adequate for computer use. 
  • Occupational glasses may be needed for some people with the syndrome. A single or bifocal lens, or tinted lens material, may help increase contrast perception and filter out glare and reflective light to reduce symptoms of eye strain.

2. Insomnia

Working into the evening face-to-face with an illuminated monitor can play havoc with your internal clock. Replace work with exciting stuff like video games after dark, and you have an even more potent recipe for a sleepless night. One study showed that playing a game involving shooting suppressed levels of melatonin, the hormone that's involved in regulating cycles of sleep and waking.

Chilling in front of the TV is no better. Another study showed that adolescents who watched three or more hours of television per day were at a significantly elevated risk for frequent sleep problems by early adulthood.

3. Repetitive Stress Injuries

The constant tiny movements needed to maneuver a mouse or type on a keyboard can irritate tendons; swelling can press on nerves. As little as a half hour a day of computer mouse use could put you at risk for pain in your shoulder, forearm, or hand.

But repetitive stress injury, or RSI, can affect your whole body, not just the part you've overused, says Mary Barbe, PhD, a professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at Temple University. Injured cells release substances called cytokines that travel through the bloodstream.

"If you have enough of these circulating in your bloodstream, they can be toxic to nerve cells and other cells," Barbe tells WebMD.

4. Obesity

There's a much more direct relationship between obesity and a digital lifestyle. It comes from spending too much time sitting on your rear. It's not late-breaking news that Americans are getting fatter and that kids are packing on extra pounds at a younger age. The hours per day Americans spend glued to the tube has been trending steadily upward, according to the Nielsen Co., with households leaving the set on for an average of eight hours and 14 minutes per day during the 2006-2007 season.

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