Blue Light is Bad For Vision
Sight deterioration is a common, natural part of aging. That being said, certain lifestyle habits can speed up that deterioration. Researchers believe there could be a connection between age-related macular degeneration and blue light exposure.
Blue wavelengths have an important role in our lives. They manage circadian rhythms and boost mood. However, most of us also experience blue light from digital devices, which emit a blue wavelength range of 400-490 nm — a wavelength that the human eye is unable to block or reflect.
This means that blue light, at night, can suppress melatonin secretion which disrupts circadian rhythms. Moreover, recent studies have shown that extended blue light exposure can damage the eye’s retina. Blue light is also very close on the spectrum to ultraviolet light, which is known to cause sunburn, cancer, and cornea damage, so researchers are paying special attention to blue light to see if it shares any of these qualities. Although it has been the subject of a large number of studies, there is still a lot that is not known about blue light.
Blue Light & Eyes
Blue light passes through the eye’s lens and cornea to meet the retina. Research has shown a connection between blue light and premature aging, digital eye strain, and retina damage. The symptoms of digital eye strain tend to be fatigue, dry eyes, irritation, or soreness. When damage is occurring, people may experience a slow loss of vision.
Blue Light Exposure
The sun is the biggest source of blue light, but today’s world includes a lot of other areas where we experience blue light exposure. For example, any digital devices from smartphones to tablets to computer screens, all emit blue light. Other sources of blue light include fluorescent light, LED lights, and LED televisions. It’s basically everywhere!
While studies show that blue light exposure from our everyday devices is much less than from the sun, the true concern comes from the amount of time that humans spend in front of screens. In fact, a recent NEI-funded study found that children’s eyes are much more vulnerable to blue light and absorb more than adults do.
From what scientists can tell, the blue light enters the eye and its interaction with a certain molecule in the eye can be damaging. The molecule turns poisonous, killing important photoreceptor cells. These photoreceptor cells do not regenerate. This is called macular degeneration.
“The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type.” Said Kasun Ratnayake, a doctoral student researcher. The study also discovered that the body produces alpha-Tocopherol, a natural antioxidant molecule that can stop cells from dying. However, as humans age, these molecules lose their ability to fight the toxic-retinal attacks.
In this high tech world, it’s more important than ever before for adults and children to practice good hygiene when it comes to using screens to help protect vision.
While studies are still inconclusive in many ways about blue light, people can still take steps to protect eyesight. For example, a simple way to reduce eye strain is to not interact with screens in a dark room. However, there are a few more ways that you can decrease blue light exposure.
- Decrease screen time
- Invest in screen filters for smartphones, computer screens, and tablets
- Select blue-blocking glasses to wear while working with screens
- Use artificial tears to keep your eyes hydrated
- Choose glare-reducing and anti-reflective coatings for glasses to block light
While researchers are still learning about the long term effects of blue light, it’s fairly clear that blue light exposure is bad for vision. Take the right steps to protect your eyesight and decrease early macular degeneration.
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