Is that iPad Hazardous to Your Health?

Dizzy

Photo by dospaz

The iPad revolution has engulfed the communication disorders field. We love our iPads and other handheld devices. Just ‘flipping’ through the cornucopia of apps related to speech, language and hearing in the App Store, it is no wonder these devices and the apps they hold are becoming therapy toolbox essentials.

As our younger clients have become more engaged in activities that utilize technology, therapy programs that are supported by apps have become increasingly popular. Young people often use other, similar technology after school to play computer games, do homework or interact on social networking sites.

Whether it’s watching TV, doing homework or playing games on a computer, or using a mobile device to play games or send or receive text messages, there is a common denominator among activities many people regularly engage in: screens.  Some are large and some are the size of the palm of your hand. We spend hours viewing screens on computers, iPads and other tablets, TVs, iPhones and other handheld devices. And sometimes we view these screens in less than optimal conditions.

As an audiologist and ASHA National Office staff member, I often receive consumer questions regarding dizziness and balance problems. These complaints commonly arise from problems within the inner ear. I typically send consumer information on dizziness and balance and recommend a visit to the audiologist for hearing and balance assessment as a good first step in understanding the causes of these symptoms and to begin a plan for rehabilitation treatment for inner ear balance issues.

But I digress….back to screens. The Internet houses many discussion forums on dizziness, headaches and vision problems while viewing screens. Enough people are complaining that a term for the syndrome has been coined; the American Optometric Association refers to this group of symptoms as “Computer Vision Syndrome.” These symptoms are not related to inner ear problems or more serious neurological problems but rather to eyestrain and can include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • confusion and fuzzy thinking

Apple does have some warnings within the iPad manual about complaints of headaches, dizziness, and eyestrain. These warnings are not highlighted, though–you have to do a thorough search to find them. There is also a discussion about these symptoms on the Apple support community.

There appears to be little scientific evidence about screen/vision safety but I have seen some recurring suggestions on the discussion forums and from ophthalmologists:

  • use task lighting and turn off the overhead fluorescent lights
  • take frequent breaks…look away from the screen and focus on something about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds
  • use special lens/glasses for computer use
  • adjust the lighting of the screen, some folks lower the backlit screens and get improvement
  • increase font size
  • adjust the ambient room lighting
  • position computer screens slightly lower than eye level (about 4 inches)
  • remember to blink. This will reduce dry eyes.

Have you or any of your clients noticed any of these symptoms when using iPads or other mobile devices?

Pamela Mason, M.Ed., CCC-A is the director of audiology professional practices at the ASHA national office. Before working at ASHA, she directed the Audiology Center at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC.

Comments

  1. I have definitely experienced dizziness and nausea after being on the computer and/or iPad for an extended period. Time to unplug…and it goes away. I haven’t heard others complain though. I didn’t know there was a name or it.

  2. Speechie says:

    I experience dizziness, vertigo and headaches with quick moving visuals that are typically displayed on a tablet computer screen. The fact that visuals move quickly across a screen as the background remains stationary seem to affect or “confuse” my visual system. Furthermore, when an entire picture rotates on the screen I become dizzy and nauseous. I am one of those people that are affected by moving and/or rotating computer “visuals”. I probably suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome. I seem to tolerate pictures slowly fading in and out in a straightforward manner on a computer tablet. I just have to be careful what I focus on when pictures slide in or turn. It’s unfortunate because I love the concept of the Ipad or similar technology but have to be on my guard when using it.

  3. Politicaljules says:

    I just had this happen to me. It scared me because I was so dizzy I could not stand up. I seriously thought I was having a stroke. Which is why I went on an Internet search to find out if this was common. Taking a break is fine, but my laptop is on the fritz and the iPad is the only device I have right now. The dizziness returns after the break. I am not being a hater because I love my iPad. I hope the dizzy ness goes away soon. :(

  4. I have noticed that some children on the Autism Spectrum enjoy watching fast moving visuals on tablet screens (such as the Ipad). I have wondered if these children are attracted to the tablet screens to gain added sensory input. The children may possibly be drawn to these motivating visuals that might also create a dizzying feeling.

  5. I have my ipad2 for 6 months. About a month ago I noticed that my hands were falling asleep at night every time I used it. My husband has the same symptoms. I also get a little dizzy. I stopped using the ipad completely last week and am thinking about retuning it and contacting consumer protection.

  6. There are at least 5 pages devoted to possible dizziness and nausea with iPad usage on the Apple Support Communities Discussion. If you Google “iPad and dizziness” you can also gather more information from these discussions on this Apple Support site.

  7. fred fredson says:

    I’ve had an ipad mini for about 6 months. I’ve used mostly for reading books and newspapers. Last week I began to get very dizzy from scrolling down through comments at the end of a story. The dizziness turned into a massive headache and now I find I can’t scroll down again without the same thing happening. My headache/dizziness is still there after a week.
    I love the ipad mini but I’m afraid I’ll have to give it a miss for a long while and wait for my head gets back to normal. My eyes are very sensitive to light at the moment too. (I’ve always worn reading glasses when using the ipad)
    It’s my guess there will be many others with similar ailments popping up in the next few years.

  8. Jean Weadick says:

    I bought an iPad mini for my flight to Hong Kong and Australia and was playing a sudoku app for hours on the plane. After I got off the plane I have never been the same, as I have a balance disorder, which I think is mdDs. It has been eight months now and although it has gotten somewhat better, the iPad makes it worse.

  9. Patti Zentara says:

    Dizziness is common for me. In the beginning I scrolled too fast. Even with scrolling at the speed of a turtle,I still get dizzy. I have to stop then and there. Headaches come in the mornings. Sometimes I get vertigo so bad I can barely walk. Will follow your suggestions. Thank you

  10. I just recently received an I phone as a birthday gift. It has triggered vertigo. The scrolling through facebook caused me to get so dizzy. Now in the last few days I am having bouts of dizziness. I am now going to take an I phone break and see if I can’t get back to normal.

  11. Patti Zentara says:

    Some good news on the vertigo I had. I just received my PONG Case the other day. I bought it
    to block a large percentage of the RFs that come with the 3G version of the iPad2. I do not have WI FI and do not want it.
    In any case, I am ecstatic that there is no more vertigo anymore. I do not know why. My best
    guess is that the sturdiness of the PONG prevents any movement while I am using it. Any rapid
    scrolling makes me sick. I never do that. But In my experience, the PONG is effective for my
    ailment. I am electrically hypersensitive also to cordless phones and cell phones. I now use the
    landline.
    I appreciate so profoundly others experiences with dizziness, etc, and one more benefit. No more headaches, boy,I am so glad I bought the PONG!
    The PONG makes cases also for the iPhone. See You Tube for many videos on the PONG!

    I also can relate to sore hands. I thought I had a broken wrist, the pain was that the pain was
    so intense when I began, I even wore a brace for carpal tunnel for a long time. I had to
    learn how to touch the keyboard lightly! I also did not know you can brush the keys instead of
    hitting them. No more braces! Styluses made things worse.

    Best of health to. All..
    God Bless, Patti

  12. barbara pickering says:

    Anyone suffered migraines after using I pads

    • Patti Zentara says:

      You can get all kinds of pains in your head when on the iPad. Too dark in the room, staring at the screen to long,
      Improper head position , too. The iPad emits RFWaves. Too much of that, and you may not feel well.
      Buy a Pong Case for the iPad …it has helped me a lot ..and I can hold the iPad in my hand now with no fear of
      over radiating my body and blood. iPads are not toys. They do pose health dangers, more than any cell phone.