Friday, February 27, 2015

Top 6 new diseases and syndromes caused by modern technology

The benefits of modern technology on our daily lives are immense and many of us cannot imagine living without our gadgets, such as, smartphones, tablets, and desktop/laptop computers. Unfortunately, as more and more time is spent on interacting with modern technology, some previously rare or even unknown disorders and syndromes have appeared. This article describes the top worst syndromes that many of us have but few of us know about as well as some tips and remedies.

health, disease, disorder, ipad, iphone, laptop, smartphone, tablet, computer
Most of us associate diseases caused by our modern society and lifestyle to cancer, diabetes, obesity or various kinds of epidemics. While these diseases will not affect most of us (luckily), few of us consider the much higher risks of developing syndromes and disorders simply caused by our over-use of high-tech gadgets. Think about it, when was the last time you or someone you know complained about pain or strain in your arms, hands, neck, eyes, or back? Chances are that most of us are developing chronic pain or infections without even knowing about it, simply because we spend too much time in front of our laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Since awareness is one of the most effective ways to prevent any kind of disease from spreading, the top 5 most common disorders and syndromes are presented as well as cures, remedies and prevention tips.

1. Texting thumb/finger syndrome


thumb, disease, sick, typing, broken, disorder
This particular disorder started to pop up when cell phones started to become popular and puzzled doctors and physicians for a long time before the cause was found. The cause turned out to be related to the increasing number of text messages sent by each person. In particular for the older phones with physical dial pads which use the T9-type input, the use of a single thumb to type was the common input method. This, in addition with the sheer high number of presses to send even the simplest text messages resulted in overload of the muscles and tendons attached to the thumb.

Today with smartphones and touch displays, this disorder is still commonly found. Although the difference is that it is no longer restricted to the thumb, but rather any finger(s) that the user mainly uses to interact with their device.

Symptoms: Pain and needle like sensation at the joints and knuckle of the affected finger with disorder.
Remedy and cure: Alternate the finger that you use to interact with your smartphone.

2. Sweeping finger disorder


disease, disorder, pain, iphone, ipad, smartphone, touch pad
The touch screens on our modern device are certainly great in many aspects. However, our sensitive fingertips are not made to repeatedly sweep over surfaces. Consider that some of the most popular games for Android phones and iPhone platforms easily can have the user sweeping a distance of 12 m (470 inches) every minute, it is not surprising that some individuals end up with fingertips with blisters, wounds or other disorders and pain.

For non-gamers, the situation is much better, although one should still not underestimate the distance we sweep with our fingers to simply scroll around the apps and pages we use!

Symptoms: Sensitive fingertips with blisters, wounds and calluses.
Remedy and cure: Alternate the sweep finger. As a last resort, use touch enabled gloves.

3. Texting neck or cell-phone/tablet neck syndrome

pain, stiff neck, migraine, headache, posture, iphone, ipad
The natural posture when using a smartphone or tablet is with the device situated at a level way below our eyes. This means that we typically lean our head downwards and sometimes also extend our neck in the forward direction. Research has shown that by leaning our heads downwards at an angle of 60 degrees the strain on our neck is approximately 27 kg (60 lb), which is equivalent of the weight of a 7-years-old child.

Based on the above, it is of no surprise that our modern devices cause us to stiffness and pain in and around the neck. For many individuals this also results in headaches, and in the worst case migraine attacks.

Symptoms: Neck pain and stiffness as well as headaches and migraine attacks.
Remedy and cure: Be aware of your posture, try and hold the device in use more in level with your eyes to keep your neck straight.

4. Laptop thigh disorder


erythema ab igne, hot water syndrome, rash thigh, cooler
Back in the days, people would seek care for rashes on their thighs caused by extensive use of hot-water bottles, heating blankets or car-seat heaters. Today, with powerful laptops replacing the traditional desktop computers, this syndrome has returned. The medial term of this syndrome is erythema ab igne, and it is caused by prolonged skin exposure to a hot surface with a temperature higher than 42 C (110 F), something which is obviously simple to achieve for a modern laptop computer.

Simply put, having a hot laptop surface on your lap for too long is not healthy and for male individuals, research has also shown that prolonged use of laptops resting on the thighs has negative impact on the reproduction abilities. In addition, this particular syndrome can even become permanent rashes and could increase the risk of developing some cancer types in the future.

Symptoms: Net-like rashes the skin, typically the thighs which are exposed by the hot laptop surface.
Remedy and cure: Try and place the laptop on a desk. There are also laptop pads and coolers that can be place between the thighs and the laptop.

5. Digital eye strain syndrome


red eye, swollen eye, headache, vision disorder
Our eyes have obviously not evolved to be used to stare at a computer screen for extend periods of time. However, in the modern technological society, this is the reality for many of us. When working with a computer screen, we tend to blink less, and also move our eyes around less. Thus, the eyes dry and the characteristic red-eye appears. Other symptoms are eye strain, itching eyes and swollen eye lids.

While most symptoms are only present temporarily and disappear when we start to do something else, in the worst cases permanent vision changes may occur. Research has shown that 70% of the American population has experienced digital eye strain.

Symptoms: Reddish eyes, itching eyes, eye strain, swollen eye lids, headache, vision disorders (e.g. double vision).
Remedy and cure: Remember that our eyes are not adapted for screen work. Try to rest and look at other objects during extended periods of time in front of a screen.

6. Tennis elbow disorder


elbow pain, forearm, pain grip, difficulties grip, finger
Perhaps the most known disease caused by modern technology. The medical term is lateral epicondylitis, while it has historically affected tennis players, today it is actually not fair to call it tennis elbow as it affects computer users much more than tennis players. Tennis elbow can occur during repetitive movements of the fingers and wrists as a result of overload in the involved muscles which are attached to a region around the elbow. This is often followed by inflammation and pain around the elbow region and the forearm making it difficult to grip and lift objects, even the very light ones.

Symptoms: Pain around the elbow region and forearm while gripping objects.
Remedy and cure: Try exercise the wrists and fingers occasionally. There are also more ergonomic keyboards and mice available.

Clearly the society that we live in today may make it difficult to avoid all of the above. However, it is worthwhile to note that by simply remembering to take breaks, stretch and alternate working positions many of the disorders and syndromes can be avoided altogether. Always remember that our bodies are built to move and not for monotonic or repetitive work!