Spotlight on Eye Health: What Is Blue Light and How Does It Affect Your Eyes?
Summer is coming to a close, and school is right around the corner. It’s no coincidence that this time period usually aligns with yearly check ups –doctor appointments, dentist appointments, hair cut appointments– but what about your eyes? While schools often provide the occasional eye exam, they don’t necessarily check the health of your children’s eyes. As electronics like smartphones, tablets and computers are becoming not just available, but more common, in most school curriculums, eye-related health issues are increasingly concerning.
Why is this? Because these electronics all have one thing in common: Blue Light. In this article, we explore the questions:
- What is Blue Light?
- How does Blue Light affect your eyes?
- How can you help protect yourself and your loved ones from the negative effects of Blue Light?
WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?
Blue Light, or HEV (High-Energy Visible) Light, is a color within the “visible light spectrum” that can be seen by the human eye. In our daily routines, our eyes are exposed to a variety of visible and invisible light rays, all of which have different effects.
Sunlight, for example, has visible light rays as well as invisible ultraviolet rays that can burn your skin and make it darker. The sun, however, also emits visible light that is made up of different-colored light rays containing different amounts of energy. Combined, these light rays make white light, which is what we can visibly see. Blue Light rays are what make the sky look blue, as they scatter more easily than other visible light rays when they strike air and water in the atmosphere.
There is an inverse relationship between the wavelength of light rays and the amount of energy they contain, where light rays with longer wavelengths contain less energy, and vice versa. Rays on the red end of the visible light spectrum have longer wavelengths and less energy, while those on the blue end have the opposite. Those on the red end are called “infrared” and are invisible. An example of this is a heated lamp. Those on the blue end have the shortest wavelengths and highest energy, and beyond these, you are getting into the invisible electromagnetic rays called “ultraviolet radiation.”
IS BLUE LIGHT DANGEROUS?
Yes and no. UV rays, because they have a higher energy than visible light rays, are capable of making changes in your skin, just like when you use a tanning bed to make your skin darker. Too much exposure to UV rays causes burns, which can also affect your eyes. Sunburned eyes are also called “photokeratitis” or “snow blindness.”
Like UV rays, visible Blue Light also has both benefits and dangers, and Blue Light is very hard to avoid. Sunlight, fluorescent and LED lighting, flat-screen television, computer screens, smartphones and more all emit a lot of Blue Light. The more time you spend exposed to these and the closer your eyes are to them, the more likely they are to cause long-term effects on your eye health. Too much time in front of a computer screen and spending hours outside are both means for precaution. It is important to note that spending just one hour outside on a cloudy day exposes our eyes to 30 times more Blue Light than an hour looking at a screen.
Some of the harmful effects of Blue Light exposure include the following:
- Blue Light can contribute to what we call “eyestrain” from staring at a digital screen for long periods of time and without blinking enough to moisten our corneas. Symptoms of digital eyestrain, or “computer vision syndrome,” include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry and irritated eyes, headaches, neck and back pain.
- The eye cannot easily block out Blue Light. Pretty much all visible Blue Light passes through your cornea and lens and reaches your retina, unlike UV rays which are blocked by the anterior structures of the eye from reaching the retina, even without sunglasses.
- Blue Light can increase your risk of contracting photo retinitis and macular degeneration. Blue Light penetrates all the way to the retina, and too much exposure can damage the light-sensitive cells there and cause permanent vision loss.
- Blue Light can lead to painful inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea as well as the eye’s crystalline lens.
- Research has linked exposure to Blue Light during the nighttime (such as for night shift workers) to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. Exposure to Blue Light at night suppresses the body’s secretion of melatonin, which makes you tired and ready to sleep.
- Smartphones, tablets, computer screens and other digital displays are not only changing the amount of light we are exposed to on a daily basis, but they are changing our behavior by affecting how close we are looking at these products and other items. As time passes, we are becoming less accustomed to looking into the distance, and more near-sighted as a result. When we stare at our smartphone screens all day, we are losing the ability to focus on various distances.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
UV rays in moderation can help your body manufacture more vitamin D. As such, some Blue Light exposure is good for you. High-energy visible light boosts your alertness, supports your memory and cognitive function, and improves your mood. Some people find it a helpful tool in combating seasonal depression and insomnia.
Blue Light also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or the body’s natural wakefulness and sleep cycle. Exposure to Blue Light affects our hormonal balance. When it is daytime and bright outside, our bodies release serotonin, or “happy hormones” that make us feel awake and motivated. In the evening when it is dark outside and the amount of Blue Light exposure we are receiving is lower, our bodies’ secretion of melatonin causes us to feel tired.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF AND MY LOVED ONES FROM THE HARMFUL EFFECTS?
Corrective Eyewear with Filters
Depending on how much you use electronic devices, you might consider using glasses with a Blue Light filter. These are available for smartphones, tablets and computer screens, and they prevent the light from reaching your eyes without affecting the display visibility.
Blue Light protective eyewear is another option. These glasses are available without a prescription, or they can be prescribed to optimize your vision for the distance from which you normally look at your screens.
Another option is to use a photochromic lens, which provides seamless protection from UV rays and Blue Light both indoors and outdoors, and it automatically darkens in response to UV rays outdoors to increase comfort and reduce glare.
For a limited time only, we are offering Single Vision Blue Light Protection Lens Packages starting at just $189. Consider the amount of time spent on tablets, phones, computers, and other digital devices at school or in the workplace. This is a small investment you don’t want to miss. Contact us or visit our store today and talk to us about how we can help you keep your eyes safe from Blue Light.