Transient Smartphone Blindness: Dark Side of Bright Screens

by | Aug 3, 2016 | Health & Fitness

Disturbed sleep and strained red eyes seem to take a back seat as we stand face-to-face with a much more alarming side-effect of the endless smartphone usage, scientifically termed as ‘transient smartphone blindness’. Cradling your smartphone and gazing at it late at night or early in the morning, while lying in bed, leads to this unusual phenomenon of temporary vision loss.

The problem: A recent report published in the New England Journal of Medicine1 outlined the case studies of two women who suffered from impaired vision for months after regularly using their smartphones in the dark.

  • The first case was of a 22-year-old woman with right eye vision loss at night.
  • The second case was of a 40-year-old woman with recurrent monocular visual impairment on waking, lasting up to 15 minutes.

Investigation of both the cases revealed that these patients used smartphone for quite some time in the dark with just one eye while lying in bed and that the symptoms were always in the eye opposite to the side on which the patient was lying.

The Cause: Lying on one’s side while using the smartphone in the dark leads to differential bleaching of the retinal pigments, making the viewer eye light adapted while the other eye, being closed or covered by a pillow, becomes adapted to dark.2 The eye staring at the bright screen is always the one to be temporarily blind when the smartphone is put down because it takes time for the phone eye to catch up with the dark adapted eye.

The Fix: Till now the long-term effect of this strange condition is not documented but viewing screens binocularly i.e. with both eyes, is a quick and simple solution recommended by ophthalmologists.

The global smartphone user-base is exponentially increasing each day with more people going to bed with their phones which puts them at a higher risk of transient smartphone blindness. Luckily enough, the condition is temporary and probably more distracting than dangerous.


Turacoz Healthcare Solutions is a medical writing organization which provides assistance in publication of research articles and clinical research documents. We consider it our corporate social responsibility to raise awareness about transient smartphone blindness. The best vision is insight!



  1. Alim-Marvasti A, Bi W, Mahroo OA, Barbur JL, Plant GT. Transient Smartphone “Blindness”. N Engl J Med. 2016;374(25):2502-4.
  2. BEC CREW. Science alert. 2016. Available at: Accessed on: 2nd Aug 2016.