Today’s Technology May Cause Next Generation Health Concerns
Sorry or Safe?
Whether they’re on the job or having fun, some of today’s habits and recreational activities of the millennial generation put them at risk for multiple chronic health problems that can surface later in life.
The cast of Jersey Shore should think twice before they hit the tanning bed as part of their “gym-tan-laundry” daily routine.
“There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan,” said Dr. Marc Inglese, a dermatologist with Dermatology Associates. In reality, a tan is a protection mechanism that occurs when skin cells are damaged, and it doesn’t matter whether you get one in the sunshine or in a tanning salon.
Tanning beds give off a very high dose of UVA radiation instead of the sunburn-causing UVB rays. A common misconception is that the skin isn’t being damaged because it hasn’t been burned. Young people think they’re safe so they keep doing it, Inglese said. But the amount and frequency of tanning can cause the skin to overdose on UV light, in a manner of speaking, and form cancerous cells.
Inglese said he sees three to four new cases of melanoma each month. Luckily, most are caught early. However, it is still one of the most rapid growing and aggressive forms of cancer. According to the dermatologist, today melanoma is 15 times more common than it was 40 years ago. It is the most common cancer in 25 to 29-year-olds and is most common in females.
Under current law, children under 16 need a signed parental consent form to use a tanning bed in Florida. But because of alarming statistics, Inglese and other dermatologists in Florida are urging harsher restrictions on tanning beds. “The push is to restrict tanning beds so minors can’t use them,” Inglese said. Several states have already banned tanning for minors. “As more data comes out, I think that’s going to become the trend,” he added.
And tanning naturally outdoors is just as dangerous.
The SPF rating on sunscreen only works correctly if it is applied heavily. “If you put on half the amount, you get a quarter of the effect,” Inglese said. In order to be completely safe from the sun, the doctor recommends staying out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and wearing protective clothing and sunscreen.
But if you’re still itching for a tan, spray tans are completely safe and are available at most of the tanning salons that offer tanning beds.
While loud concerts wrecked the hearing of Eric Clapton, Roger Daltry and many baby boomers, blasting Lady Gaga on the iPod may be the culprit for the next generation.
To minimize hearing damange, keep the volume low and limi the amount of time you use earbuds. The proper room lighting and screen brightnedd cacn help you avoid eyestrain.
Lisa Myrick, a doctor of audiology and director of Tallahassee Ear, Nose and Throat, advises earbud users to never turn up the volume louder than 50 to 60 percent. The number of hours one listens and how loud the volume is can directly affect the damage done to the ear. “Even as little as 18 minutes in certain environments can cause damage,” Myrick said.
In the past, noise damage was usually seen among people whose jobs put them close to loud machinery, such as military personnel, hunters and farmers. Because noise exposure is cumulative, noise-induced hearing loss is typically seen later in life and is irreversible.
However, the millennial generation is at serious risk for noise exposure because of technological advances like iPods and custom earpieces. Custom earphones can be more comfortable, but they may be more damaging than regular earbuds, said Myrick. Because the sound goes straight down into the ear canal, it can cause more damage. However, for the same reason, the volume doesn’t have to be turned up as high.
“You just have to use common sense,” she said.
If you’re concerned about noise damage, it’s important to go to a doctor and ask for a hearing evaluation and an otoacoustic emission test. “Those are good baselines to have,” she said.
Also, noise-canceling headphones — the bigger ones that look like earmuffs — can be safer for listening. “It should be safer to have a noise canceling system than not,” Myrick said. They produce a better quality of sound and reduce ambient noise while allowing the listener to better hear the music at a lower volume.
It is too soon to tell how many of the millennial generation will be affected by noise damage, but Myrick believes wholesale hearing loss can be easily avoided. “If we educate and make changes to our listening habits, projected numbers of hearing loss won’t be reached,” she said.
Texting and Typing
Good news, 20-somethings: Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your unlimited texting plan. Contrary to popular belief, texting, typing on your computer and playing video games won’t cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
No studies show a direct relationship between gaming and carpal tunnel, said Dr. David Bellamy, an orthopedic surgeon at Tallahassee Orthopedic Center. Bellamy opines that it’s more likely one will get tendonitis with texting rather than carpal tunnel. “If you’re having pain around your thumb, it’s a good chance it’s tendonitis,” he said.
Every time someone texts, he or she uses the tendon that stretches from below the thumb through the lower part of the arm. If it gets inflamed, it can affect the nerve and can cause discomfort.
By changing keyboards or wearing a wrist split while typing, the pain can resolve itself on its own and more serious methods of pain relief like steroid injections and surgery can be avoided.
However, Bellamy believes it depends on the anatomy of an individual as well. “It may be less important what you do than who you are,” he said. “People that are prone to get it may get it sooner,” or they might get more symptoms. Those without much room for the tendon to swell might experience more pain than someone who has lots of room around the nerve.
Tendonitis is most common among those older than 30, so unless symptoms start to develop, Bellamy says young people shouldn’t worry. “It’s so rare in younger folks, even doing stuff like that won’t have a large effect,” he said.
Of course, young people who text while driving may not make it to a ripe old age. AAA quotes reports that say reaction times drop by 35 percent and steering control drops by a whopping 91 percent while texting and a University of Utah study says you’re eight times more likely to get into an accident while texting.
Laptops are convenient, but they can cause damage when actually used on a man’s lap.
The heat the laptop generates can be too hot for testicles, said Dr. Kevin Winslow of the Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Jacksonville.
According to a recent study from SUNY Stony Brook, laptops do increase the temperature of the scrotum, which can then cause infertility.
However, “one of the bigger issues is just sitting with your legs together,” Winslow said. If the inner thighs are both presssed against the scrotum, like when someone is in the sitting position, it also generates heat.
Many truck drivers, for example, have infertility problems.
The study found that men who spread their legs at a 70 degree angle significantly lowered scrotal temperature elevation. “From a practical standpoint, that’s going to help you more,” Winslow said.
For guys who use a laptop for an extended period of time, Winslow suggests taking a break to walk around.
Also, use something with rubber or a laptop pad when placing the laptop on the body — not a pillow. Even though you’re protecting your lap from the heat radiating from the laptop, the pillow can act as an insulator and still raise the temperature of the scrotum.
The rumor that staring at a computer screen will rot your brain isn’t all false.
Years ago, old cathode ray tube computer monitors were a cause for concern, as they had an electromagnetic coil inside that some thought would emit radiation, said Tallahassee optometrist Tim Moore.
The new LCD computer screens used today are totally safe, Moore said. However, because people use computers so often, people are now affected by other factors.
If a person is predisposed to become nearsighted, doing a lot of close-up work on the computer can cause them to become nearsighted sooner, he said.
Staring at a computer for long periods of time can cause dry eye, but this problem can be easily fixed, he added. Remind yourself to blink more often or buy a bottle of lubricating eye drops and use them while you’re working.
Moore said that younger people may be prone to eye strain because of intense computer usage.
Using a larger font can help alleviate the stress on tired and strained eyes. Playing around with the brightness of your screen helps as well.
“Sometimes people put the screen way too bright, and that can affect them,” he said.
Ambient light, like from a window or overhead fluorescent lighting, can also cause glare on the computer screen, which can make it harder to see. “It’s better to have a lamp in the room or indirect lighting,” Moore said.
However, the best thing you can do is take a break from work and let your eyes readjust.
“It wouldn’t hurt to let your eyes rest once in a while to let your eyes refocus away from the computer to give them a chance to relax,” he said.