Blue Light and Long-Term Eye Health

In today’s world, we are exposed to more blue light than ever before.  Our TVs, phones, computers, and even the smartboards in schools emit blue light. So, what is blue light, and should you be concerned about the effects of over-exposure on your eyes?  Learn more about what you can do to protect your eyes and stop digital eye strain.

What is Blue Light?

Blue light is part of the light spectrum that is visible to the human eyes.  It is a short wavelength light that is near UV light on the electromagnetic spectrum.  Essentially this means that blue light produces more energy than other forms of visible light (Source 1).

Image Credit: https://www.eyetrusteyecare.ca/research-on-blue-light-and-the-affects-to-your-eyes/

What Emits Blue Light? 

Initially, the only source of blue light exposure that we had was the sun.  Now we are constantly exposed to blue light through the LED lighting in our home and workplace, digital screens, and more. 

Many of us spend our entire workdays in front of a screen, which is approximately eight hours of blue light exposure, not considering phone use, TV, or computer use after work.  Although the blue light emitted from the sunlight is 500 times stronger than the LEDs in our homes, there is still concern that so many hours can be harmful.

What Are the Risks of Blue Light Exposure?

Scientists are still researching the long-term effects of exposure to LED lighting and digital screens. Some professionals in the field of optometry are concerned that blue light increases the risk of macular degeneration. This theory is due to the high-energy nature of the light. The concerns do not apply to all ranges of blue light, only the blue-violet range, which is around 380 to 400 nm.

In 2019, a Harvard study found that the majority of consumer products are not linked to an increase in macular degeneration.  However, there is a link between LEDs, computers, and phone screens and a disruption in the body’s natural circadian rhythm (Source 2).

Our circadian rhythm is our biological clock that tells us when it’s time to sleep.  For most of human history, this rhythm was determined by exposure to sunlight.  Now, the use of phones, TVs, and computers -- even the lighting in our homes -- exposes us to blue light long after the sun has gone down.  Often, this makes it difficult to go to sleep or get a good night’s rest.

Additionally, digital eye strain is on the rise.  The symptoms of digital eye strain include headaches, dry, watery, or red eyes, blurred vision, and difficulty concentrating.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Eyes?

Although there is currently no connection between blue light and an increase in macular degeneration, blue light filter lenses may help you find relief from other symptoms.  Many people have found lasting relief from using blue light filtering lenses during computer use or out in the sun.

Blue light filters can help you fight the symptoms of digital eye strain and reestablish a proper sleep/wake cycle so that you can get more restful sleep. Options for blue light filtering range from 100% coverage through lenses like Blutech, which appear goldish to brown in color, to completely clear blue light filters. 

Polarized sunglasses often offer blue light filtering in addition to the UV protection, and light-adaptive lenses (i.e., Transitions) provide some of the best blue light protection, even when they are clear.

How Does a Blue Light Filter Work?

Blue light filters on lenses have many different designs. Some filters create a prism in the coating of the lens, which reflects a range of blue light away from the eyes.  These types of lenses often appear to have a blue tint or hue to them, though this tint is invisible to the wearer.

Another type of filter is absorption. These kinds of lenses have a gold or brown tint to the lens material, which blocks the blue light from passing through the lens and reaching the eyes. Often these types of lenses are recommended for highly light-sensitive individuals or at a high-risk for serious eye problems like macular degeneration. Individuals without macular degeneration may not be at risk for developing the condition from blue light sources. Still, those who already have the condition should do everything possible to protect the eye from additional damage. This is why blue light filters are highly recommended for anyone with a history of macular degeneration.

Clear blue light filters are a recent development in eyewear and absorb the blue light wavelengths through a unique design that counters the light wave and cancels it out.

Blue light protection comes in many forms, so talk to your doctor about which solution is right for you!

Who Needs Blue Light Filters?

As mentioned above, anyone with a history of macular degeneration or other eye problems should consider blue light filter lenses for their glasses.  These lenses can help to prevent complications and may decrease the risk of the condition worsening.

Individuals who spend long hours in front of computers, under LED lighting, or outside are also recommended to consider blue light filtering to help regulate their sleep/wake cycle and reduce insomnia.

Blue light filters are commonly recommended for children’s glasses because of the potential risk of overexposure to their developing eyes. Studies are still being done on whether or not the increased exposure to screens and blue light harms children’s eyes or creates more digital eye strain symptoms.

If you, or someone you love, is suffering from the symptoms of digital eye strain or macular degeneration, talk to your optometrist about the solution that’s right for you. Our opticians at Jarvis Vision Center are happy to show you real-life examples of blue light filter lenses.

Contact us today to schedule your yearly eye exam, or to talk to a professional about finding relief from the effects of blue light exposure.


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Sources:
Source 1: https://blutechlenses.com/blog/what-is-blue-light/
Source 2: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/will-blue-light-from-electronic-devices-increase-my-risk-of-macular-degeneration-and-blindness-2019040816365

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