VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Claim that playing virtual games for hours causes eye bleeding NEEDS CONTEXT

A previously debunked claim that a man had suffered from bleeding eyes for spending “too much” time playing Mobile Legends, a mobile multiplayer online battle arena, found its way on Facebook again. The post, shared over 216,000 times and generating more than 11,000 comments mostly of netizens tagging their friends, needs context.

On Feb. 9, one Facebook (FB) user posted a screenshot of an article from Pinoy Trending News (pinoytrendingnews.com) headlined “Lalaki naputulan ng ugat sa mata dahil sa sobrang paglalaro ng Mobile Legends (A man’s eye blood vessels were ruptured from playing too much Mobile Legends).” The piece can no longer be found online but the FB post continues to draw reactions.

This claim circulated back in 2018, and has been debunked by Indonesian media Kompas, Australian fact-checking site Hoax Slayer, and American media network WUSA9’s fact-checking arm VERIFY.

The post re-emerged in the Philippines a week after House Resolution (HR) 1524 was filed by Leyte 4th District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, commending local team BREN Esports for winning the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang M2 world championship. The group was named Best Mobile Legends Team champion on Jan. 24.

This claim of bleeding eyes due to excessive playing of Mobile Legends online needs context. According to clinical optometrist Monalisa Catapang Ocampo, a co-founder of the Philippine Association of Licensed Optometrist (PALO), prolonged exposure to screen time when using gadgets may lead to subconjunctival hemorrhage.

However, this can happen if the person has been focused on the screen for too long, as this can dry the eyes.

“This dryness then causes itchiness and irritation that makes the person want to rub his eyes. The vigorous rubbing of the eyes causes the friction between the eyelids and the eyeball that then causes breakage of the capillaries that causes that kind of subconjunctival hemorrhage,” said Ocampo.

She said people with hypertension or diabetes may also experience dry eyes, adding that those who take “medications like anti-allergy drugs” - the effect of which is dry eyes - may also experience subconjunctival hemorrhage.

The claim is believed to have started as a WeChat message from Indonesia. The message was posted by Instagram account @BlogDokter on July 7, 2018. The same account, which now has over a million followers, also posted the same message on Twitter a day after.

In an article from Oct. 7, 2018, Indonesian media Kompas consulted Ophthalmologist Dr. Ferdiriza Hamzah who confirmed the post was false.

The thumbnail photo of the post shows a man with dark red spots in the eyes and wearing a nasal cannula or a device to help regulate breathing.

Australian fact-checking site Hoax Slayer (hoax-slayer.net) said the device can suggest the person’s subconjunctival hemorrhage was instead “related to this respiratory distress,” according to its July 25, 2018 story. It added that there are “no credible medical reports that suggest that the condition can be caused by simply playing a video game for a prolonged period.”

The false claim also reached American social media.

WUSA9’s fact-checking arm VERIFY debunked this post in a video from Aug. 1, 2018, where they interviewed ophthalmologist and associate professor Shameema Sikder of Johns Hopkins University.

Because of prolonged gadget use, Sikder said “the eyes can become dry which can cause the blurring of the vision,” resounding Ocampo’s statement.


(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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