Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Visual problems - mobile phone ? other ?

I currently experience something weird...

As a software developer, I spend a lot of time staring at a monitor.

And since one month, I experience really bad effects on my vision. Kind of things floating in front of me and a bad feeling on the left side of my head.

I made a head scan (cool, I now have pics of inside my brain ;-) ) and all is normal.
I went to the eyecare professional and all is normal - retina ok and all.
Still, I experience this bad effect...

I use a LCD screen of 17", which is really stable and at 1280x1024, there is lot of room to work easily.
The fonts are not too small and I can read them but at times, there is some kind of "fog" coming.
Today, I made some searches on the net about mobile phone effects to the brain.

And now, I turned the phone off and stopped calling with it.
It seems that this was a potential cause since (maybe due to a psychosomatic effect) my vision appears to be better (but not completely restored).

I became aware of this vision problem quite quickly since I am always looking at small details and am quite sensitive to details.

So, my question is:

- do you have any clue about what could be causing that effect ?
- am I the only one having this weird experience ?
- are mobile phones evil ?

Of course, this frightens me since I earn my bread developing applications and a blind programmer is of no use... I am not there yet but who knows ?

No name since it would be dangerous for my career :)
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

> are mobile phones evil

One reason why some people like hands-free headsets to keep it more than millimeters from their brain (radiation obeying an inverse square law as it does). Are you left-handed?

> do you have any clue about what could be causing that effect ? am I the only one having this weird experience?

If I had your symptoms I'd get a good night's sleep - if that didn't work, the next person I'd want to talk with would be my doctor, not random strangers on the internet. My 'family doctor' (general practitioner) might run a diagnostic decision tree of his own, or refer me to an eye doctor (an ophthalmologist, not an optician or optometrist).

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

> Today, I made some searches on the net about mobile
> phone effects to the brain.
>
> And now, I turned the phone off and stopped calling with
> it. It seems that this was a potential cause since (maybe
> due to a psychosomatic effect) my vision appears to be
> better (but not completely restored).

What I find weird is how you got such an improvement in such a short time.

> - do you have any clue about what could be causing
> that effect ?
> - am I the only one having this weird experience ?

I work at a mobile carrier, and I've never heard of anything like this.

> - are mobile phones evil ?

They're just unresearched (does this word exist?). It is possible we're doing something wrong, out of ignorance, but then, we (humans) are experts at doing this. We get so caught up with how much we know, that we keep forgetting how much we don't know.

Some things to think about:
- Does the same thing happen at home, or just in the office? If it's just in the office, are there any antenas, transmitters (sp?), etc, nearby?
- Can you go on with your mobile off for, say, a week, and see what happens?
- Can you have someone turn on a mobile near you, without you knowing, just to try to make sure it isn't psychosomatic?

Hope you get well.

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Talk to your doctor about 'Floaters' (I don't remember the nomenclature) but I suffer (?) from the same thing.  I thought I was having a stroke (which, incidentally, I did have at 28).  Turns out they are harmless 'stuff' floating around.

Brad Siemens
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

I sometimes get what could be described as "dark fog" effects around the letters when:

- I'm tired
- use an LCD monitor with very high brightness and contrast
- in a poorly lit room

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Okay, let's give you some more info:

Yes, I usually use my left hand while on the phone. This frees up my right one so that I can type or write.

I went to the familty practicioner and we discussed this at length. He took whatever measures he needed (blood pressure is fine, blood is fine, etc). I am in perfect shape on that level.

I have had a proper night and I eat healthy food.

I have a balanced life, a wife and all. The relathionship is stable and very satisfying.

Swimming twice a week and having friends.
So, I am no psycho.

I went to a eye-physician (expert surgeon for eyes etc).
She took my internal eye pressure, tested the quality of vision and examined the retina closely.

And yes, now that I have closed the cell phone (I am heavy user of this thing - well, not for a long time anymore but..)

And I turned to the forum because there are a lot of people working with the same set of devices all day long and some may want to share.

No name
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

The most likely reason for the symptoms you describe is floaters as someone else has suggested already. They're usually harmless and are caused by the vitrium shrinking and detaching from the retina. Sounds bad but is apparently a normal phenomenon. I'm 21 and have had loaters since I was 17. Can be irritating but it's not that bad!

Float me
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

> And I turned to the forum because there are a lot of people working with the same set of devices all day long and some may want to share.

As I mentioned, people who use cell phones a lot, and who use both hands for typing, have a little extension wire with a button mike and button earphone ... I picked up that hint in Singapore.

I get tired too with an LCD, but then I mostly use the LCD at home at night (in the day in the office I have a CRT).

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

See the doc.  Believe me (as an aged one with formerly good vision) that good vision can go down the tubes in a hurry with age.  It's normal, natural,  and terrible but you can manage it.

As my doctor says, "TK, you are  finally beginning to mature."  I say, "That's a damn lie and your know it."

tk
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

The things floating in front of your eyes may be floaters, but the problem with the left side of your head is probably something else.

Small sources of stress can cause some strange effects over time.  I once had some recurring incidents of sudden dizziness.  After a few weird tests at the hospital and living with the problem for a few weeks, I found that it was just due to stress caused by my glasses being a little out of kilter.

Try to be aware of anything that might be causing an asymetric stress.  Is there a window or light source to one side but not the other of your workspace?  The cell phone could be a source of trouble.  If you always use it on one side of your head you might be stressing muscles on that side of your head.

Although people worry about RF from cell phones, I haven't heard of any scientific evidence that it causes any problems.  A quick check of the National Cancer Institute web site says they haven't found any problem.

mackinac
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Maybe you could be suffering from migraine? I get them sometimes, and have a weird shimmering effect in parts of my visual field, generally followed by headache & a sick feeling. As other people have said, talk to your doctor.

Andrew Simmons
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Probably just floaters.
Oh, and clean your glasses.

mk
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

No name,
Your life is too normal, take some drugs and get laid by strangers. You'll be Ok then.

Alberto
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Incidentally (not that it's relevent to the symptoms described) I read that LCD monitors often aren't as good as the LCD screens that you find in a laptop: because the latter have digital input, whereas the former often take an analog input which then needs to be redigitized.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Alberto,

I can tell you that it is not due to drugs... they have other effects than this on me ;-)

More seriouly thanks to all of you for the valuable advice.

For the record I am 32 - I guess that after more than 20 years looking at TVs, CRTs and LCDs the eyes get hurt.

Nevertheless, I kept this damn device shut off for the day and no eye problem... Go figure.

Noname
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I have a couple more suggestions for you.  First, I will say that noone who doesn't have your symptoms will fully understand what it is you are talking about.  I do have them.  Mine is on the right side and yes I do hold my cell phone on that side.  I have been seen by an optic neurologist and a neurologist specializing in Multiple Scelorsis (MS).  I have been diagnosed with optic neuritis.  Basically, this is an inflamation of the optic nerve which can cause a break down of the insulation (mylan) around the optic nerve.  The result is a signal loss to the brain from parts of the eye causing blank spots.  The blur or fog is caused by the brain filling in the blanks.  The specialists are not sure what causes it, though MS can create the same symptoms.  Go see an optic neurologist, not an eye surgeon and see what they say.  There are a couple of tests they can run including an field vision test with a close spectrum not a general one like your optometrist might do.  There is another that tests the delay in the signal from your eye to your brain.  The fact that you have had a brain scan and it is normal probably rules out MS (mine was normal also), but see about getting checked out again later, just to make sure.  MS is multiple points of demylanization, whereas, optic neuritis maybe just one.  I have had my symptoms for over a year now and while there has been a slight improvement over that time, the problem still exists.  By the way, the eye doctor would have seen the floaters - so you all that keep making that suggestion need to accept that floaters are not the problem.  I will try using an ear piece on my phone and see if I get some improvement.  I hope that I have helped a bit.  Good luck and I hope that someday you will see clearly!

Teddy Wilks
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

The problems don't improve with age but I always found this encouraging (even though it may not apply to programmers):

It was a scientific study about musicians, specifically piano players.  The paraphrased idea is that pianists continue to play well even though their physical skills deteriorate with age.

All things being equal, the young tennis player will beat the old one.  But the young pianist probably won't beat the old pianist.

I don't know if a programmer is a tennis player or musician.

tk
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Are the things floating in your vision kind of like a shimmery fog?  I get those once in a long while.  My eye doctor called them "optical migraines," i.e. kind of the visual effects that migraine sufferers get, but  without the actual pain.  I usually get them when I've been shorting myself too much on sleep, so you may want to check if you're getting enough rest at night.  Good luck!

Tony Dismukes
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Teddy, the doctor tought about something like SEP but this was not the case.
I see details quite clearly (little hairs on my hand, small pixels at 1280x1024 etc and can read textbooks as fast as before).
This rules out macular degeneration since I see the details.
Still, it has really been improving since I switched the mobile phone off.
Your comment about "noone can understand if they do not have it" is something I really feel now.
I'll go for a check about this optic nerve problem.
What puts me into panic mode is that my other eye is kind of bad (ambyopic eye - so that I see in 3d but cannot do much with it). So if I got trouble with the working one... hum...
About rest, yes, let's try some 12 hour sleep sessions :-)
Something that has disappeared and was quite identified was a kind of zigzag in the two thirds vertical of my field of vision (like a blood vessel on the retina or something having such a shape).
I put some light to diminish the contrast for the LCD screen. It helps.
And at work, I use a 20" CRT and am able to work all day long on code without problems now.
If it has to do with the phone, well, the insurance business will have a good time in the future...
As a last comment, I should mention that my head is quite sensitive to atmospheric conditions (yes, like a barometric head). So that when I have a headache without reason, I can tell that rain is coming soon. This may be related in some way.

Next time, I 'll tell you about my invisible friends (well, I begin to see them floating around ;-) ).

And I hope that I am more of a musician than a tennis player... fingers crossed.

Noname
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

SEP is MS but in french...

Noname
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

> I'll go for a check about this optic nerve problem.

I'm vegetarian (have been for 20 years) and my sight is fine aged 42. My left has always been weaker due to my looking at the sun with it when young. Some diseases such as Leiber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON)  are associated with lifestyle factors as well as DNA, such as smoking, alcohol, and dietary deficiencies. I eat a multivitamin daily. Vitamin B12 is one of the important ones, and it exists in at least 2 forms with several false analogs - I saw it recommended on a LHON site to use the hydroxycobalamin form of B12 and not cyanocobalamin so I compared labels on many multivitamin brands. I am not a doctor.

Anon.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

My vision was fine at 42, at 45, and at 48,  not so fine at 49 and beyond.

tk
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I've had similar problems two years ago.
They all
disappeared when I changed the background colors of
all the applications I work with to something dark, or at
least to something at brightness level 210 or below.
May help you too.

(It is a pity that many pages on the internet insist on
white as backgroundcolor and do not use the users
preferred background color. Including Joel's.)

Anon
Monday, October 07, 2002

I turned the colors as you advise.
There is already an improvement...

Noname
Monday, October 07, 2002

What you describe reminds me of my problem, that is related to my focus distance that is not right when I stare at something close (like a computer screen for instance).
There are some exercises you can do (muscles around the eye to train).

cya.

noname neither
Tuesday, October 08, 2002

I'd hate to contribute to the vast quantity of disinformation on the Internet, but I seem to remember a study from a couple of years ago that found that those mic/headphone things that plug into mobile phones actually _triple_ the amount of radiation that your brain is exposed to, due to the wires "channeling" it from the phone to your head.

Anyone else hear about it?

Dunno Wair
Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Yes, I was told so. So, the phone is off. And the colors darker. Significant improvements are "visible" :-)

NoName
Wednesday, October 09, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home