Blue light exposure from smartphones INCREASE the risk of eye damage
(NaturalHealth365) According to The Vision Council, almost 90 percent of American adults use digital devices – including notebooks, laptops and smartphones – for two or more hours a day. And the resultant barrage of blue light (coming off these devices) is raising lots of red flags.
Recent studies have sparked concern among natural health experts that blue light from the screens of digital devices could cause optical problems, ranging from eye strain to increased risk of macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration – a disorder affecting the retina that causes blurred vision – currently affects over 1.8 million Americans. Known risk factors include being over age 60, smoking cigarettes, and having heart disease and diabetes.
Could gazing at smartphones and computer screens trigger macular degeneration as well? (the answer may surprise you)
What is blue light and what is the problem?
Sunlight contains red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays, which combine to form “white” light. White light contains both visible and invisible rays.
At one end of the light spectrum are red rays, with longer wavelengths and less energy. Blue rays, at the other end of the spectrum, have shorter wavelengths and higher amounts of energy. About one-third of all visible light is blue light, classified as “high-energy visible” (HEV) light.
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Beyond the red end of the visible light spectrum are infrared rays, which can’t be seen. (However, infrared lamps, such as those found in restaurants and some saunas, also emit visible red light as a visual indication that infrared light – and heat – is being produced).
Like infrared rays, ultraviolet light – at the other end of the spectrum – can’t be seen. But the effects can be very visible. Too much ultraviolet light can cause sunburn, and even skin cancer. It can also cause “sunburned” eyes – a condition known as photokerasis, or “snow blindness.”
Scientists already know that ultraviolet radiation is linked with cataracts – and possibly with macular degeneration. Unfortunately, we can’t always predict the effect of excessive blue light exposure – until it’s too late.
Warning: Excessive blue light radiation can harm the retina
Blue light exists not only in sunlight, but in man-made sources as well – including fluorescent and LED lights, flat screen TVs, computers, electronic notebooks, smartphones and other digital devices.
According to Dr. Gary Heiting, an expert on preventive vision care, studies have shown that too much exposure to blue light damages cells in the retina – causing changes that resemble those found in macular degeneration.
So it’s not surprising that scientists are concerned that blue light from computer screens could raise the risk of macular degeneration later in life.
Although computer screens emit far less blue light than the amounts generated by the sun, doctors are concerned because of the proximity of the screens to people’s faces – and the sheer amount of time spent looking at them.
Blue light provides some benefits, including regulating circadian rhythms
Here’s where things get a little complicated.
Blue light is not unreservedly bad, and it’s not a good idea to block all blue light all of the time. A certain amount of blue light – which can increase alertness, improve memory, sharpen cognition and even lift mood – is essential for good health.
In fact, the light therapy used to treat seasonal affective disorder utilizes bright white light that contains high-energy visible blue light. Blue light also helps to regulate circadian rhythms, which govern the body’s natural sleep and wakefulness cycles.
While exposure to blue light in daytime can support healthy sleep patterns, seeing blue light in the hours before bedtime can suppress production of melatonin, the “sleep” hormone.
In other words, a habit of scrolling through your smartphone or reading on a laptop at bedtime is not conducive to restful sleep – to say the least.
Melatonin is not only a sleep-promoting hormone, but an important cancer-fighting antioxidant.
In fact, some experts believe that the use of electric lighting in developed countries – which disrupts the body’s optimal melatonin production schedule – is associated with the significantly higher rates of breast and other cancers in these areas.
Filter blue light with screen protectors and special eyeglasses
Dr. Heiting advises using specialized screen protectors – and notes that these can prevent substantial amounts of blue light from reaching your eyes, without affecting visibility.
LowBlueLights, a company founded by a trio of lighting research and development specialists, offers a range of products to filter blue light. A variety of companies, including Eyesafe, iLLumiShield, RetinaShield, Retina Armor, and Cyxus, also offer filtering options.
Editor’s note: We are NOT compensated in any way for the products recommended in this article.
You can also protect your eyes and reduce exposure to blue light with the use of specialized blue light-filtering eyeglasses, available without prescription. Technology companies are getting on board, too.
Apple recently released a light filter for iPhones and iPads that automatically activates blue light filtering at night.
Proper nutrition can help preserve eyesight naturally
You can help protect your eyes from macular degeneration with a diet high in antioxidant carotenoids – particularly orange or yellow vegetables like carrots and squash.
Darkly colored fruits and berries – such as cherries, blackberries, blueberries and bilberries – are rich in beneficial plant pigments known as anthocyanins, while green leafy vegetables are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, a pair of powerful antioxidants endorsed by The American Optometric Association as effective in reducing the risk of chronic eye diseases.
Tip: you can reduce eyestrain by following the “20/20/20” rule. For every 20 minutes of using a digital device – or watching a flat-screen TV – look away for 20 seconds while focusing on something 20 feet away.
Of course, any unusual visual disturbance calls for a visit to a qualified eye doctor.
(In addition to blurred central vision, symptoms of macular degeneration can include blurry patches in your field of vision, colors appearing faded or less vivid, and straight lines appearing as “wavy.”)
Along with cataracts, macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss and acquired blindness in the United States. It only makes sense to “play it safe” and err on the side of caution – by reducing excessive exposure to blue light.
Sources for this article include:
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