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This post was most recently updated on November 6th, 2019
With the boom in technology things like communication, traveling, shopping, and many other things have gotten a lot more convenient. Information travels from one end of the planet to the other side of the planet in a matter of seconds.
Things like smartphones, tablets, and computers are everywhere. In your home there are devices, at work there are devices, you go into a sit-down restaurant and there is a little device for you to order your food, its EVERYWHERE!
With all this technology available today, eye care professionals are worried about the effects of blue light from these devices on your eyes.
Wait what? What is blue light?
What is Blue Light
Blue light is a part of what is known as the visible light spectrum. The visible light spectrum is a part of a larger electromagnetic spectrum. The visible light spectrum is the part we can see. Blue light is on the end of the spectrum where the wavelengths are shorter but pack more energy than the red on the opposite side of the spectrum that has less energy and longer wavelengths.
The interesting thing about the blue light is that it is both good and bad for you. There are two types of blue light:
- Natural – Natural blue light comes from the sun. The sun is the biggest source of blue light.
- Artificial – Artificial blue light comes from many sources including smartphones, tablets, fluorescent lights, televisions, and more. The amount of artificial blue light in our everyday lives is increasing.
Even though the sun is the single biggest source of blue light, eyecare professionals are concerned about the length of time that people are spending with their electronic devices at close proximity to their eyes.
What is it Doing to Your Eyes?
While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of the damage that blue light does on your eyes.
It is well known that the lens and cornea of your eye are very good at filtering out UV rays before they reach the retina, but nearly all visible blue light passes right through the cornea and lens onto the retina.
It is thought that an overexposure to blue light could cause a permanent loss of vision that is similar to that of macular degeneration.
It is thought that blue light contributed to digital eye strain due to our prolonged exposure looking at smartphones, tablets and computer screens.
New research recently published by researchers from the University of Toledo may have figured out exactly how the blue light is damaging your eyes. Experts have always known that blue light exposure could cause the permanent loss of vision similar to macular degeneration but never knew exactly why.
In this new study, the researchers focused primarily on a certain molecule that is produced in the eye called “retinal”. These retinal molecules are what our photoreceptors need to be able to see, and they are basically useless without them.
In this study, researchers introduced the retinal molecule to blue light, which caused the retinal molecule to produce a toxic chemical. This toxic chemical would actually kill the photoreceptor cells, which do not have regenerative properties.
Researchers also tested this with the other colors of the visible light spectrum in which have longer wavelengths than blue but did not get a response from the retinal molecule with any other color other than blue.
Not everything out of this study was bad news though, researchers found out that alpha-tocopherol, something that is found in vitamin E actually protected against the degenerative process of macular degeneration. Researchers are hoping that this might lead to something down the line that could help slow down the macular degeneration process.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Eyes?
With technology today in 2018 being virtually a part of everything that you can imagine and being such an essential part of everyone’s daily life it would be hard to just eliminate them from our lives. No one is telling you that you have to get rid of technology, we can, however, be more proactive about protecting our eyes from the blue light. Let’s dive in on a few ways of how you can protect your eyes on a daily basis:
- Sunglasses – I can not stress how important it is to wear a pair of glasses that are polarized when outside to protect your eyes from the intense blue light from the sun. Standard tinted sunglasses may offer 100% UV protection but do not offer adequate protection against blue light. Polarized lenses prevent blue light from entering the eyes due to its unique filter that blocks reflected light.
- Adjust Screen Brightness – If you are one of those people that like the brightness of your computer, tablet, or smartphone at the highest brightness I recommend turning it down, especially at night time. Some smartphones offer a night mode that could reduce the screen brightness and change the color at night time. If your phone doesn’t have the feature alternatively there are many free apps that could do the same thing.
- Screen Time – Being mindful of how much time you spend in front of your devices could help reduce the amount of blue light you’re exposed to. If you work in front of a screen try to take frequent breaks by looking away at the screen for 20 seconds. Try not to use your devices too close to bedtime as this could throw off your sleep-wake internal clock.
- Get Blue Light Blocking Glasses – The optical industry has coatings that can be applied to lenses that help filter out blue light. Even if you do not need a prescription to see if you work in front of a computer all day you could still benefit from a pair of glasses without the prescription with a coating to block blue light.
- Screen Protectors – You can get screen protectors for things like your computers, smartphones, and tablets to help reduce the blue light that would be emitting from those devices.
- 20/20/20 Rule – This is a rule where you look away from the computer, smartphone, or tablet every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, 20 feet away. This gives your eyes a bit of a break and helps your eyes refocus, which would help reduce digital eye strain.
Not All Blue Light is Bad
Wait What? Well, why are we trying so hard to block it all the time?
Well, to be honest, the amount of blue light that is all around you on a daily basis there would be no way if you were trying your hardest to completely block it all. That is assuming your not just sitting in a pitch black room all day long.
Blue light is actually quite important to you during the day. It is an important part of your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm.
Exposure to blue light during the day helps your body know that it is daytime and it helps improve alertness, cognitive functions and helps you with your mood. This is the reason why too much blue light exposure right before bedtime could throw off your natural circadian rhythm and keep you up for longer then you want to be at night. The end result is a restless/sleepless night and overly tired days.
So everyone needs to be a little more proactive at protecting their eyes, especially against blue light. If you have to sit in front of a computer screen all day because that is a part of your job then you can purchase some glasses that could help filter out that blue light. Those glasses would help reduce the glare you would get from looking at a computer screen all day as well and help reduce eye fatigue.
With the new evidence from researchers that blue light creates toxic chemicals in your retinal molecules and killing your photoreceptors, we should be even more cautious about how much time we are spending on our devices on a daily basis, and do as much as we can to protect our eyes from the blue light.
Have you heard of blue light before? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know below. As always thank you for reading and if you have any comments, questions, concerns leave them below and I will get back to you.
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