Retinal specialists are often asked about the impact of blue light on our eye health. As more of us spend our time in front of screens, we must understand how these lights affect our vision and how we can protect ourselves from damage.
Blue light surrounds us with sunlight; fluorescent bulbs and digital screens emit it. But can it be bad for your eyes?
How Blue Light Affects Your Eyes
The eyes are susceptible to light, designed with structures that filter certain types of light, evident rays. The cornea and lens block most ultraviolet rays, but blue light isn’t easily blocked from reaching the retina. High-energy blue rays can penetrate the cornea and lens, reach the retina, and cause damage.
However, not all blue light is harmful. The sun emits blue light, and it has several health benefits. It boosts alertness, enhances memory, and elevates mood. It also regulates our natural wake and sleep cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.
But as we depend more on technology that relies on LED technology, like computers and smartphones, we’re exposed to more significant amounts of artificial blue light. In addition, research shows that prolonged exposure to low levels of artificial blue light may affect the development of eyesight. For example, blue light may slow the progression of myopia (nearsightedness).
While we don’t know how much artificially emitted blue light affects human vision, too much can cause eye strain. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye fatigue, dry eyes, and headaches. These symptoms are aggravated because we tend to blink less when using electronic devices.
Although there is limited evidence to suggest that blue light emitted by digital screens causes eyestrain, more research is needed. The high levels of blue light emitted by modern electronic screens may scatter more than other visible light colors, reducing contrast and making it difficult for the eye to focus.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes while using digital devices like computers, smartphones, or tablets.. Look at objects that are at least 20 feet away and study them for about 20 seconds to give your eyes a rest from up-close viewing. Adding eye drops and room humidifiers to your daily routine can also help prevent eyestrain from blue-light-emitting electronic screens.
How You Can Reduce Your Blue Light Exposure
While blue light is a necessary part of the visible light spectrum, overexposure to this light can be harmful. It can cause eye strain, interfere with sleep patterns, and damage retinal cells. The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce your exposure.
The best way to protect your eyes is by reducing screen time. However, this is only sometimes possible since digital devices are integral to most work. The key is to use screens consciously and take regular breaks.
One way to reduce eye strain caused by electronic devices is to follow the 20/20-20 rule. It means that every 20 minutes, you should look at something at least 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds. Additionally, you can minimize your exposure to blue light by adjusting the brightness of your electronic devices to match the lighting in your surroundings. Brighter screens emit more blue light, so lowering the brightness reduces exposure. In addition, many computers and phones have built-in blue light filters or night mode settings. Make sure to enable these settings if available.
Another simple solution is to use computer glasses that filter blue light. These blue light blocking glasses filter out blue light to reduce eye strain on digital devices.
Several apps can be used on your computer or smartphone to reduce blue light. These apps typically adjust the display of your device to give it a more natural hue and can reduce eye fatigue.
Finally, certain nutrients can help with eye health, including the carotenoids lutein, astaxanthin, and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown these to have potential protective effects against blue light-induced macular degeneration. You can find these carotenoids in foods like spinach and other leafy greens or take a supplement.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Eyes from Blue Light
Although blue light has some advantages, such as improving alertness, mood, and cognitive function, excessive exposure can cause eye strain and sleep disturbances. It can also increase your risk for retinal cell damage and age-related macular degeneration. However, ditching your screens entirely isn’t realistic, so there are some things you can do to ward off their adverse effects.
It’s essential to keep a check on how frequently you are using your digital devices. Following the 20-20-20 rule, which suggests looking at an object 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds every 20 minutes, can efficiently minimize screen time and alleviate eyestrain. You should also make sure your device brightness is appropriate for the lighting in the room and use natural light sources during the day as much as possible to limit your exposure to artificial light.
Another way to protect your eyes is to wear blue-light-filtering lenses. These are designed to block the harmful blue wavelengths emitted from digital screens and energy-efficient light bulbs, and they can help you get a better night’s sleep. They can also decrease glare and help with visual comfort, especially during the daytime.
Despite the concerns about blue light, experts don’t think it will permanently harm your eyes or cause macular degeneration. It’s just that the amount of blue light we’re exposed to is so high now from backlit digital screens and devices, energy-efficient lights, and even our smartphones and tablets that it can disrupt our circadian rhythm and make sleep harder to achieve. But avoiding screens isn’t the answer since most of our lives are spent using them. The best thing you can do is follow the tips above to limit your exposure and enjoy a healthy, comfortable life.