Blue light is everywhere in today’s digital world, but 72% of our population are unaware of its dangers. One of those dangers is that it can cause macular degeneration over time, which leads to blindness. Blue light can shine from both natural and man-made sources. Learn how you can safeguard your eyes from the dangers of blue light or from frequent screen exposure due to work or hobbies. Your eyes will thank you for it!
All of the lights you see on a daily basis fall into the visible light spectrum. This is also known as the “electromagnetic spectrum” and makes up all of the visible colors you see at different wavelengths. That spectrum is called the “visible light spectrum” because it is visible to the human eye. There are many other forms of light rays such as radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma rays. Humans can only see the lights that fall within the visible light spectrum. There are cone-shaped cells in our eyes that receive the different wavelengths of light and then interpret them as the different colors that we see. Each color has its own wavelength, which is how our eyes interpret objects in different colors.
Blue light is part of the electromagnetic (or visible light) spectrum. We receive beneficial light from all the colors that range from red to green. Even blue-turquoise light is beneficial to our bodies as it helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles as well as helps our body build memory. However, the farther into the blue wavelengths of light you go, the more damage it can have on your eyes.
Blue light has a wavelength between 380-500 nanometers (nm). 1 nanometer equals a billionth of a meter. For those who aren’t scientists, that basically means that blue light has one of the shortest wavelengths, making it very high and concentrated in energy. Blue light can be found in the atmosphere from the sun’s light and can also be found in many electronic devices that are used today. Electronic devices are what concerns many physicians, as the use of electronics has significantly raised the number of damaged people to receive to their eyes.
Blue light can be found in items with digital screens. These include laptops, smartphones, tablets, TVs, computers and other electronic devices. It can also be found in fluorescent and LED lighting. Too much light from UV rays can burn the sensitive parts of your eyes that allow vision. Blue light is only one wavelength below UV rays, so there are damaging effects it can have on your eyes when you receive too much. People spend a significant amount of time on digital devices, which highly increases the risk for problems such as macular degeneration over time.
A short-term problem people experience quite often is eye strain. The blue light that is present in electronic devices creates a slight flickering effect that strains the eyes when focusing. Other problems caused by blue light include:
Digital Eyestrain Syndrome, which entails problems such as blurry vision, problems focusing, dry and irritated eyes, frequent headaches, and neck and back pain from being in the same position for extended periods of time. Eye strain is the #1 problem experienced from blue light.
Disruption of the circadian rhythm, which can mess with how well you sleep.
Increased risk for depression (though more studies are needed to know why).
Greater risk for certain cancers.
Permanent eye damage, especially contributing to macular degeneration and vision loss. The number of macular degeneration cases is expected to rise the more that digital devices are used. This causes blindness over time that cannot be reversed.
Blue light damage is relatively newer with the development of technology. However, we do know that blue light decreases melatonin levels, which disrupts sleep and thus affects health. Blue light does help regulate sleep cycles, but too much of a good thing can always cause problems.
Research has proven that there is a correlation between certain eye discomfort and vision problems and the frequency, length of time and ways you interact with digital screens. Your level of discomfort directly correlates to the amount of time you spend on digital devices (even your cell phone). Our recommendation is to wear glasses that protect your vision, such as blue-light glasses. Not only will your symptoms decrease, but you will significantly reduce your risk for macular degeneration over time with proper eyewear.
We also recommend the 20-20-20 rule suggested by the American Optometric Association. Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This can help clear up symptoms when you experience them. This is especially helpful if you are working and have to be looking at a digital screen often. Reduce the amount of glare on the screens you use by being in an area with proper lighting. Improper lighting can cause light to hit your computer strongly, creating a glare. You can also reduce eye strain by making fonts bigger on your computer and by blinking more often to moisten the eyes.
You only have one set of eyes, so it’s very important to keep them as protected as possible. Investing in blue-light glasses is the best way to protect our eyes from blue light damage and eye strain. Protected eyes are eyes that are prone to fewer problems in the long run. Protecting your eyes can save your vision, especially in the years where visual problems are more likely to occur. If you use digital screens and devices often, you may need regular eye exams more often to avoid vision problems. To learn more about eye strain and blue light or to have your vision checked, call our Optical Masters office today at (720) 782-2190!