We all know how important it is to protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays but what about the harmful effects of blue light rays? Our eyes are increasingly exposed to blue light emitted by the screens of digital devices and there is growing awareness that excessive amounts can cause red and irritated eyes, eye fatigue, headaches, blurry vision and even sleeplessness.
The Digital Revolution
The evolution in digital screen technology has advanced dramatically over the years we are gradually being exposed to more and more sources of blue light and for longer periods of time. There’s growing medical evidence that blue light exposure may cause permanent eye damage; contribute to the destruction of the cells in the center of the retina; and play a role in causing age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to vision loss.
Why is blue light harmful?
Blue light has a wavelength of between approximately 380nm and 500nm; making it one of the shortest, highest-energy wavelengths. There is concern among researchers over the harmful effect of short-wavelength blue light from LED screens on the macula and the risk of damage. Current research suggests that blue light can be harmful to the retina as a result of oxidative stress which can appear after low intensity exposure repeated over long periods, such as office workers spending long periods of time on computers, tablets and smartphones.
Who is at risk?
Recent figures show that a typical multiscreen user is clocking up seven hours or more of screen time every day, which includes laptops, TV and smartphones. All of these emit significant amounts of blue-violet light, which is the highest energy wavelength of visible light, and because of that can penetrate through the eyes’ natural filters, all the way to the back of the eye. Over-exposure to blue light can cause headaches, dry eyes, and difficulty sleeping in the short term, and there are potential longer-term effects that we are also worried about. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in Australia and it could be getting worse due to these devices. Anyone using digital devices is at risk, but children are especially at risk from blue light as their eyes are not as efficient at filtering out harmful light.
Too much blue light from excessive computer use or interaction with iPhone and iPad late at night can recalibrate the brain so it thinks it is daytime rather than night, increasing the risk of sleep disturbance.
How should I protect my eyes?
If you already wear glasses, there are now lenses specially designed to help filter blue light. They let in the good blue-turquoise light that helps regulate your sleep cycle, but keep out all UV and blue-violet light.
For those without prescription glasses, it is becoming increasingly common for people who have blue light exposure for hours every day to wear blue-light blocking clear lenses in order to reduce eye fatigue and protect them from damage.
It is important to give your eyes a rest from screens so the blue light doesn’t interrupt your sleep patterns and you get a healthy, restorative rest. Reducing time spent on devices wherever possible will help to reduce exposure, especially at night.