Blue light is everywhere in today’s digital world, but 72 percent of our population are unaware of its dangers. Blue light can shine from both natural and man-made sources, many of which we don’t even realize. Besides the sun, much of the dangers of blue-violet light in our modern world come from digital screens. If your profession or hobbies put you at more exposure to blue light, consider investing in glasses and sunglasses with blue light protection. Many problems could stem from not protecting your eyes, even if you are indoors. Those with age-related macular degeneration also have a greater risk of damage to the eyes from blue light. Those who don’t have macular degeneration could actually develop it from blue-violet light exposure and at a much younger age. Learn the dangers of blue light so that you can protect yourself while also enjoying the things you love to do.
Light is an important part of everyone’s life. It helps us to see colors, work and interpret the world. It lights up our screens at work and at play, and it is heavily involved in the technologies we enjoy. However, too much of a good thing can have damaging effects, and blue light is no exception. Small doses of blue light have been found to aid our overall health, whereas too much exposure can lead to diminished eye health and vision. When we think of UV rays, we usually think of the sun. The sun contains light rays that are red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and violet. Those lights come together to create white light that we perceive as sunlight. Each color carries a different amount of energy with it, and it is that light energy that carries the damaging effects.
Energy from light comes in different wavelengths depending on the color of the light ray. Long wavelengths equal less energy and shorter wavelengths equal more energy. Blue-violet light waves are actually the shortest light waves, carry the most energy and thus damage our eyes and skin more than other light. This light comes naturally from the sun, but with advancing technology, we now find blue light in many electronic devices and lights used in homes and businesses.
Some sources of blue light include:
LED lighting and TVs
Computer display screens
Electronic notebooks and tablets
As we said, blue and violet lights have the shortest wavelengths, and thus the most energy. You may notice that your digital device screens may flicker sometimes, especially depending on your distance from the screen. That is because of the blue light's short wavelength. That flickering is also suspected to cause headaches and eyestrain after staring at a screen for too long.
The LED lighting also has a blue light and has become very popular in today’s world as the demand for enhanced screen clarity has grown. LED and fluorescent lighting emit high levels of blue light, usually between 25-35% of damaging blue light. The world is moving in the direction of heavy LED lighting, and experts estimate that 90% of our lighting will be LED lighting by 2020. That means much more will have to be done to protect our eyes and our health from blue light in the future.
33 percent of adults spend 9 or more hours on a digital device each day. Exposing your eyes to blue light for this amount of time can have damaging effects on your eyes if you don’t actively do something to protect them.
69 percent of American adults use a smartphone on a daily basis, exposing their eyes to the dangers of blue light.
Your eye's cornea and lens can naturally block almost 100% of UV rays. Glasses are needed to block the rest and give you the full 100% protection.
Digital device users may begin to feel eyestrain or fatigue after 2 hours or less of staring at a digital screen.
Studies show that 60% of people spend 6 hours or more using a digital device each day.
A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that two-thirds of 12-15-year-olds spend at least 2 hours a day or more watching tv or using a computer. Other surveys found that at least 15% of teens watch 4 or more hours of tv alone in a single day.
Macular degeneration cases have increased 9% since 2000 and are expected to double within the next 30 years. The suspected culprit is blue light from electronic devices and indoor lighting.
Too much violet light can sunburn your eyes and your skin and cause cancers. The eyes are made to withstand the majority of UV light rays but are not equipped to withstand blue light rays. The amount of time people spend in front of devices at close range is what damages eye health. The UV light causes damage to the front of the eye, while blue light damages the back of the eye. The eye can block many damaging UV light rays. Blue light though is able to pass straight through the lens and cornea to the retina and light-sensitive nerves, causing damage to the macular pigment in the eye. This ultimately leads to macular degeneration, which could lead to blindness. Macular degeneration is most often seen in adults 40 years and older, but health professionals predict that many more of the younger generation will develop macular degeneration, and much quicker due to electronic devices. Glaucoma and other retinal degenerative diseases can also form from too much exposure.
Other symptoms of too much blue light exposure include digital eye strain, neck and back pain, headaches and migraines, blurry vision, dry and irritated eyes, difficulty focusing, and a greater risk for cancers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.
Not all blue light is bad! We need a little bit of blue-violet light to function properly and stay healthy. The sun is needed to rejuvenate our body's vitamin D supply. Studies in light have shown that bright lights can improve mood and alertness, as well as help with memory. Adequate blue light exposure also helps regulate our memories and hormones. Blue light plays a big part in managing our circadian rhythm, making our sleep cycles function naturally. That's one reason why too much blue light (from electronic devices) directly before bedtime can hinder your sleep at night.
Although there are health benefits in small doses, blue light in abundance can be very damaging. Many companies have created blue light filters for electronic devices as well as special glasses to filter out blue light while indoors or outdoors. Many filters for devices look like screen protectors, but they are really blocking blue light from reaching your eyes. Computer glasses can be worn at home or in the workplace to protect your eyes as well. When outside, glasses with UV protection of 400 or more should be used. There are even contact lenses that have been made with special anti-glare coatings to protect your eyes from blue light rays.
Those who need the most protection are those who already have macular degeneration or have a family history of it, as scientists have found that genetics can predispose people for blue-violet light damage. If you are exposed to LED or fluorescent lights often or work on a digital device or computer screen daily, you also might want to take preventative measures and protect yourself as much as possible. Children’s eyes are still developing up to the age of 10, so caution should be used when regulating screen time.
As with anything, too much or too little of something is not good for your health. You need a little bit of blue light in your life, just not too much or you could experience problems with your eye health. Moderation in all things is the key to keeping your eyes healthy! Assess your waking hours and how much time is spent in front of a digital device. If you find that you spend hours around digital devices, it might be time to take some preventative measures to protect your eye health.
Call Optical Masters at (720) 782-2190 today to learn more about blue-violet light and how we can help you protect your eyes.