Published on August 2nd, 2013 |
Age-related macular degeneration is one of the world’s most common eye conditions, affecting an estimated 1.8 million Americans aged over 40. The condition is an eye disorder associated with ageing and affects the sharp central vision in the eye due to damage to the macula (the central part of the sensitive retinal tissue at the back of the eye). As the condition develops, the sufferer’s central vision worsens, gradually making it difficult to carry out daily activities such as driving, reading and writing.
However, there is hope for sufferers in the unexpected form of digital tablets. The most popular tablet brands include Apple, Samsung and Amazon’s Kindle readers, with tablet sales predicted to exceed those of PCs by the end of the year. New research carried out at the American Academy of Ophtalmology discovered that people who regularly use digital tablets for reading may be able to read more quickly and comfortably than those who simply read from printed texts or newspapers. Of the 100 participants who took part in the study, everyone was found to read fastest on the digital tablet and even managed to increase their reading speeds by at least 42 words per minute.
How does it work?
According to the researchers, the main reason why digital tablets improve reading skills is due to the backlit screen of the devices. When the background is slightly lit, it increases the contrast between the letters and the background, making it easier to see the text clearly and comfortably. In addition, both devices make it possible to zoom in on text or show larger fonts, thus improving the clarity of text for all users.
Which brand is best?
Those who took part in the study made the most significant reading speed improvements when using the Apple iPad (an average speed increase of 42 words per minute) whilst Amazon’s Kindle did not fare as well and only improved reading speeds by 12 words per minute. Despite this, it would be interesting to consider the effect on reading speeds when using the devices in bright light. Unlike the iPad, the Kindle uses a unique paper-like screen to show clear text in all conditions, even on the beach in the sunshine which could help to improve reading speeds in difficult conditions by increasing contrast sensitivity. The iPad is primarily designed for other applications such as internet, messaging and social media, making the focus less about reading long sections of text.
What does the future hold?
It is hoped that better understanding of how the smart devices screens improve central vision and reading skills could help opthalmologists to advise their patients on the best devices to consider to support their vision. Amongst popular negative press concerning the dangers and risks of prolonged use of digital devices, it is surprising to find positive health results from tablets. Despite this, as with any prolonged work, it is important to avoid spending long periods of time using a digital tablet for reading as focusing on small text can cause eyestrain and headaches. Remember to take regular breaks to keep your eyes feeling comfortable and irritation-free.