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image (1)I hope medical textbooks have been revised since my time as a student because the kind of cases that show up at the clinic these days did not exist back then. Nowadays, we get to see a lot ‘modern ailments’ that are byproducts of technology, especially the excessive use of computers (in all their manifestations), the internet and smartphones.

health 2Although technology has made life convenient, it has also created health issues. About a decade ago, a ‘bad back’ was caused by an injury or bad posture. However, now doctors routinely ask patients how much time they spend working on their computers because many complaints are directly related to too many hours on the computer.

Recently, a friend (and patient) of mine was convinced that he had all the symptoms of brain cancer. Dissuading him from an MRI was as difficult as convincing him that technology was responsible for all those aches and pains.

Prolonged computer use can lead to a strained neck and back trouble; typing with the wrists flexed at odd angles leads to carpal tunnel syndrome; staring at a screen’s artificial light for hours at a time causes headaches while affecting eyesight and blurring vision.

People who spend too much time online have also been known to develop attention deficit disorder and suffer from anti social behaviour which could lead to depression; those who work on their laptops while in bed or just before going to bed often complain of disturbed sleep as well.

Perhaps the worst health hazard of technology is the freely available medical information. On one hand, people like my friend develop ‘cyberchondria’, an imaginary illness, while on the other hand there are people who think Web MD is good enough to cure their very genuine ailments.

To keep technology related health issues at bay, remember to take breaks often, stretch and flex muscles and joints and remember that virtual friends and virtual doctors are NOT a substitute for the real thing. n

– Dr Samia Khan
The writer is Director, Health Awareness Society

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 9, 2012.