Why Your Eye Doctor Cares About Blue Light

About a decade or two ago, eye doctors would ask their patients if they ever used a computer. The reality today is not if a computer is being used, but rather, how many hours per day. Many eye doctors are discovering that their patients are using 2 to 4 screens at a time! Computer screens, cell phones and tablets all use Light Emitting Diodes (LED) to deliver a bright and sharp image to the viewer. LED light is comprised of a very high concentration of light on the “Blue” wavelength.

This blue light is also referred to as High Energy Visible (HEV) light and is naturally found in sunlight. Of all the different kinds of light the human eye can see, blue light is the most powerful. The more power a light wave has, the deeper it can penetrate tissue before being absorbed or blocked. Think of how much more powerful the sun’s UV rays are at the equator than they are in Canada. The more powerful a UV ray is, the deeper and worse your skin will burn.

This extremely short and powerful wavelength is proven to be very harmful to the sensitive tissue inside the eye. Beyond damage to the health of the eye, blue light has many more harmful effects to your overall health and quality of life.

Harmful Effects of Blue Light

Studies from both Harvard University and the Paris Vision Institute have concluded that there is a direct relation of blue light exposure and retinal cell death. You read this correctly, staring at a computer screen literally increases the rate at which the cells inside your eyeball will die. This drastically increases the risk for Macular Degeneration (America’s leading cause of blindness).

In addition, studies conducted in Europe draw conclusions that night time exposure of HEV light disrupts your body’s natural production of Melatonin. This naturally occurring chemical in your body is triggered when the sun goes down to make you tired and facilitate deep REM sleep. Do you use a computer at night? How about reading a tablet or phone in bed? There is a strong feeling amongst leading scientists that modern society is not getting enough restorative sleep due to a Melatonin cycle impairment from computer usage.

There is also a new phenomenon in the last decade known as digital eye strain. Sometimes called computer vision syndrome, it is characterized by dull aches and ocular pain. Other symptoms include eyelids that twitch, headaches, and even blurry night vision. These symptoms are often attributed to the habitual exposure to electronic devices.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself from Blue Light?

Your eye doctor is not going to expect you to throw away your phone and computer. It also isn’t a reasonable expectation to “cut back” on the usage of the device (though this would help solve the problem too). So, there is only one answer to this: eyeglasses that have lenses that block and absorb blue light. There are many types of non-glare coatings that incorporate this, and even special pigments that can be added to lenses that absorb the blue light before it can get to your eyes. If you are out in the sun, the other way to protect your eyes is with sunglasses.

There are some less effective methods to protect your eyes from blue light that are still good habits to explore. We encourage regular breaks of 20 seconds from computer work at least 3 times every hour, and a high-quality computer screen filter will help lessen the amount of blue light emitted.

Eye Didn’t Know That

Old computer screens used to be large and bulky. They used lots of electricity, but the image was not very bright and crisp. LED screens were utilized to save space, but more importantly, to use less electricity while also being brighter and clearer. Since blue light is such a short and powerful wavelength, it does not take much power to run a screen. After all, the light wave itself is doing all the work to get inside the viewers eyes. It makes sense, of course, that LED screens would also be used on cell phones.