Blue Light and Your Eyes—Should You Be Worried?

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Few of us know about the adverse effects of blue light. Let’s start by defining blue light.

 

What is Blue Light? 

The sunlight is formed by red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light rays among several shades of these colors which, when combined, form the “white light” that we see. Each of these light rays have different wavelengths and amounts of energy: the ones on the red end have of the spectrum have longer wavelength and less energy, whereas blue rays have shorter wavelength and more energy.  Blue light, therefore, is a form of wavelength that occupies the highest energy portion of the visible spectrum.

 

Where do we find blue light?

Sunlight is the predominant source of blue light, but these days we are also surrounded by a wide variety of man-made sources such as fluorescent and LED lights, compact fluorescent light bulbs, computer monitors, screens of digital devices including television, smartphones and tablets just to name a few. 

 

Even though the amount of blue light contained in indoor light and electronic devices is only a small fraction of that radiated by the sun, there has been a lot of discussion about potential effects that blue light may cause to our eyes and overall health depending on the amount of time they are being used and on the proximity of these screens to our eyes. 

 

Blue light benefits x harmful effects 

Is blue light good or bad for us? Well, it depends. During daylight, blue light can be greatly beneficial, as it plays an essential role in regulating our circadian rhythm (the body’s natural wake and sleep cycle), boosting alertness, elevating our mood, and helping our memory.

 

However, being exposed to the blue light emitted by digital devices late at night can cause some issues, and the number one consequence is that it contributes to sleep problems, as it causes disruptions to the circadian rhythm. 

 

Although our natural eye lenses can filter most blue light from the sun, they are not particularly good at filtering blue light from man-made devices, penetrating the retina and causing damage to its light-sensitive cells. 

 

Too much exposure to these strong bright blue light waves is not beneficial to your health in the long term. Since blue light scatters more easily than other visible lights in the spectrum, it is not easy to focus on it. Consequently, it creates a visual noise that reduces eye contrast and can lead to digital eye strain, which includes the following symptoms: blurry vision, headaches, dry and irritated eyes, difficulty focusing, and neck/back pain. 

 

How to protect your eyes against damages caused by blue light 

Since the current reality for most revolves around looking at screens for an extended period of time, here are some useful tips that will help protect yourself from the damages that may be caused by blue light:

 

  1. Boost your macular pigment. Macula is a thin-layered tissue that primarily absorbs blue-light and it is located at the center of the eye. This pigment is made of 3 carotenoids (lutein, zeoxanthin and meso-zeoxanthin), that can be enhanced with proper supplementation. Therefore, if you are willing to preserve your eye health, make sure to consume supplements that contain these carotenoids in its formula or to focus on a healthy diet that includes foods with high levels of antioxidants such as leafy green vegetables, broccoli, squash, zucchini etc.  
  2. Invest in anti-glare lenses. These types of lenses reduce glare and increase contrast, adding an extra layer of protection against blue light reflections emitted from the sun and digital devices. Visit our Optical Center to learn more about our anti-glare lenses.
  3. Get a screen filter. Screen filters are cheap accessories available for phones, tablets and computer screens. They filter much of the blue light emitted from such devices preventing it from reaching your eyes, thus minimizing exposure. 
  4. Minimize screen time. Your eyes need to rest, so take a break from your computer every 20 minutes and look at something else for at least 20 minutes. This method will help you prevent digital eye strain and will greatly contribute to your long-term eye health.  Note: You should also avoid looking at bright screens two or three hours before bed.

Rodrigue and Associates Eyecare is the leading eye care specialty practice in Augusta, Maine. For over 38 years, we have focused on providing our patients with the highest quality optometric and medical eyecare.

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