Cell phones have changed countless aspects of our everyday lives: how we communicate with friends and family, the way we shop, how we get around, and of course, how many people keep track of their budget.

But cell phones have also taken a new role in our health -- and not in a good way. 

 

Unhealthy side effects of smartphone use

Research has revealed several ways that smartphones are impacting people's mental and physical health. 

1. "Text Claw": That's not a technical term, but the phrase is used to describe the finger cramping and sore muscles that come from constant scrolling, texting etc. Using your smartphone too much can also cause inflammation in your tendons -- enhancing existing conditions like carpal tunnel.

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2. Computer Vision Syndrome: Staring at the tiny font on your smartphone screen all day can lead to eyestrain, blurred vision, dizziness and dry eyes, which can cause stigmatism in the eyes.

To avoid these side effects, take a break! Every once in a while, look up from your phone and focus on something else far away. And don't forget to blink! Increasing the font size of the text on your phone can also help.

3. Nomophobia: This is exactly what is sounds like -- no mobile phone phobia -- the fear of being without your cell phone. According to one study in the U.K., 66% of people have a fear of losing or being without their phones. And this fear can even lead to anxiety.

4. Phantom Pocket Vibration Syndrome: Ever check your phone because you could have sworn it just vibrated in your pocket? You're not the only one. This is actually a real thing. A professor at Indiana University conducted a study and found that 89% of the undergraduates she surveyed experienced phantom vibrations when their phones weren't actually ringing or vibrating. Plus, the students were more anxious when their phones weren't vibrating, after becoming dependent on constant texts and updates.

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5. Germs & bacteria: In 2011, researchers at the University of London found that one in six cell phones is contaminated with some sort of fecal matter, most likely because the owners didn't properly wash their hands with soap after going to the bathroom. Some of the phones also had E. coli bacteria on them.

Another study found that cell phones are also often contaminated with  methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) -- also known as Staph.

“Staph aureus is always dangerous and MRSA forms are worse because they cannot be stopped easily,” says Dr. Robert J. Wolff, PhD, program director of Health Science at South University, Columbia.

Basically, your hands are usually pretty dirty. But washing them with soap and water throughout the day can reduce the amount of bacteria you carry around. Cleaning your phone is also a good idea. 

“A fairly dry towel can brush off many of the germs,” Wolff says. “The towel does not need to be very wet, which can be harmful to the device.”

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