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Health conditions caused by technology

With mobile phones being used to make dinner reservations, Facebook taking friendships to a whole new level, and laptops as light as air, it is almost impossible to live without technology. However, as computers and related technology continue to advance, they can also be a huge hazard to our health. Here are things to look out for before plugging in

1. Hearing loss

While many technological illnesses have arrived in the last 10 to 15 years, it has been more than 30 years since concerns were first raised that people could damage their hearing listening to loud music on personal stereos. France even banned manufacturers from selling gadgets capable of producing sounds above a certain level.

2. Headaches

For years, the debate has raged over whether mobile phones are harmful, but studies have shown there is a link between headaches and mobile use. Research commissioned by phone manufacturers in 2008 found that making a call shortly before going to bed can affect quality of sleep, which can lead to headaches the next day.

3. Repetitive strain injury

It used to be factory workers, dressmakers and musicians who were most at risk from repetitive strain injury. But now office workers can suffer from the condition after spending too many hours using a keyboard. Repeated use of fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders can lead to damage which, over time, the body is unable to repair. That’s why preventative steps, such as regular breaks, are advised.

4. Acne and allergies

Cleansing your face before bed may not be enough to keep pesky acne at bay. Cellphones can be covered in bacteria, causing oils to collect when placed against the face. The result? Unwanted pimples on cheeks and chins. You could also get an allergic reaction such as dermatitis. Just another reason to put the phone on speaker, use a headset, stick to texting, or speak to someone in person.

5. Wrist pain

Carpel tunnel, one cause of wrist pain, can occur from excessive typing. Often shrugged off as a slight cramp, a muscle pull, or a muscle spasm, carpel tunnel syndrome is a serious nerve disorder, depending upon the intensity, which occurs at the wrist leading to pain, sensory changes and loss of function within the hand. Numbness in the fingers, especially thumb, index and middle finger, burning, tingling sensation in the palm, pain radiating in upward direction of the hand, tightening of joints and fingers and poor grip while holding objects are a few lethal symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome. So, ease up on the tweets and take a break from the computer, or at least keep the keyboard low enough so the wrist doesn’t bend upwards.

7. Phantom ringing syndrome

This is when you think that your phone is buzzing in your pocket. Research shows 70 per cent of people who self-categorise as heavy mobile users have reported experiencing phantom buzzing in their pocket. It’s all thanks to misplaced response mechanisms in our brains. Whenever we feel any tingling in our leg we get a burst of neurotransmitters from our brain that can cause either anxiety or pleasure and prompt us to action. Instead of reacting to this sensation like it is a few wayward tingling nerves, we react as if it’s something we have to attend to right now.

8. Nomophobia

Nomophobia tends to be the anxiety that arises from not having access to one’s mobile device. The term “Nomophobia” is an abbreviation of “no-mobile phobia.” Nomophobia is the marked increase in anxiety some people feel when they are separated from their phones. While phone addiction may sound like a petty first world problem, the disorder is fast penetrating less developed countries causing mental and physical health problems. So much so that the condition has found its way into the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). You see people pull out their phones and two minutes later do it again even though nothing has taken place. That’s driven by reflex action as well as by anxiety to make sure we haven’t missed out on anything. It’s all part of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) reaction.

9. Sleep depriviation

Counting sheep ain’t cutting it? It may be from cuddling up with your phone and laptop in bed. The artificial light from screens can suppress the release of melatonin, which helps us sleep. Swap the computer for a book before hitting the hay and hopefully your sleep will come a bit more easily.

10. Electromagnetic sensitivity

From Wi-Fi to mobile phone signals, we’re surrounded by wireless communications and, for some people, exposure to electromagnetic fields is making them ill. Symptoms range from acute headaches and skin burning to muscle-twitching and chronic pain. Some Americans have been forced to move to areas where wireless communications are tightly controlled.

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