Healthy Life | 19 June, 2019

Cyberpathogenesis: pathologies resulting from exposure to cybernetics

Communication BBVA in Switzerland

New technologies are here to stay. They represent a giant step forward in terms of access to information, management, and communication, making life much easier. However, as is the case in other areas, the use we make of them can have consequences – in this case, physical consequences. We have decided to use the term “cyberpathogenesis” to describe the origins of pathologies resulting from excessive and/or prolonged exposure to cybernetics and, in general, to new technologies. It thus explains the origin and development of some diseases attributable to the incorrect use of technology; though, obviously, other factors may be involved.

A turning point in communication

The technological revolution at the end of the last century has driven the appearance of new devices (computers, smartphones, tablets …) that now condition our way of communicating and our interpersonal relationships. Cybercommunication is the term used to define the way we communicate when using the Internet. It brings with it infinite advantages but also has a downside that we can’t ignore. Broadly speaking, among the advantages are more sources of information, entertainment, and socialization, a new way of learning through the use of online tutorials, skills development, easier paperwork, greater accessibility, immediacy…

Physical implications

But along with the great advantages, there is a downside that we can’t ignore. Fortunately, just as cybernetics is advancing by leaps and bounds, medicine is doing so to adapt to new diagnostics derived from prolonged exposure to the use of technology.

So what are these new problems?

  • Whatsappitis: pains related to the prolonged use of devices.
  • Cyber-tendinitis of the thumb: did you know that the muscles of the thumbs of today’s adolescents are more powerful than those of past generations? In fact, the thumb is now considered the most developed digit; before it was the index finger. Mobile devices, video-game joysticks, etc. explain this change.
  • Muscle sprains due to strained posture (there is something known as the “smartphone neck” caused by a 60º flexion that could cause wear to the anterior wall of the spine).
  • Psychological cyber distraction/cyber fatigue: attention deficit with respect to the surroundings because of being absorbed in a chat).
  • Vitamin D deficiency: increasingly frequent among young people, it can be attributed to this group’s reduced exposure to the sun.
  • Cyber fatigue affecting vision: eye fatigue caused by continuous exposure and overstimulation to light.
  • Cybernetic insomnia: inability to fall asleep following neurological excitation from prolonged exposure.

How blue light affects you

Did you know that very bright screens emit an excess of blue light (wavelength similar to ultraviolet) and that overexposure to it can cause retinal damage? That is why filters for this type of light already exist in both lenses and smartphones.  Likewise, prolonged exposure to small screens in a situation of low ambient light (i.e. mobile phones used in bed) is associated with an increase in the rate of myopia among young people that could be explained by fatigue caused by the eyes adapting to a close object.

Cervicals under pressure

When the articulations affected are in the cervical spine this has been called “text-neck”. It consists of discomfort associated with the position that these vertebrae acquire when you look at or play with your mobile phone. Muscle pain and stiffness appear, which can develop into contractures in the area, even causing headaches. Flexion in this position puts greater pressure on the vertebrae than they normally support when the spine is straight.

Mobile dependence

Have you heard about phantom vibration syndrome? It is the mistaken feeling that your mobile phone is vibrating even if you don’t have it with you. Nomophobia (no-mobile-phone phobia), on the other hand, is the abnormal panic of not being able to survive without a mobile, characterized by nervousness, restlessness, anguish, and anxiety when you don’t have your mobile phone with you (as when you forgot to bring it or the battery has run out).

Prevention is better than cure

Take some preventive measures to avoid suffering the inconvenience associated with the use of these terminals. In this way, you won’t have to give up the advantages they offer while avoiding some of their annoying physical consequences:

  • Keep them at close to eye level.
  • Don’t use them for more than 30-45 minutes at a time.
  • Do some muscle stretching exercises and try not to maintain a static posture for a long time.
  • It may also help if you do exercises to strengthen the specific muscles involved.
  • And above all, bear in mind that while technology is part of human progress, the excess can be harmful. There is time for everything: you just have to assign the right amount of time to each thing.