Blue Light and Our Eyes
Researchers are studying the effects of blue light on our eyes. They already know that this light from digital devices can seriously damage the eyesight of adults and children. Learn more about blue light effects below and talk to your eye doctor about ways to prevent this damage for yourself or your loved ones.
What is blue light?
Sunlight looks like bright white light. But it really consists of all of the colors of the rainbow. You just do not recognize the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet when these colors of light combine.
Each light color has its own energy and wavelength. Their strength depends on the color's position in the spectrum of what we sometimes see as a rainbow across the sky. At the red end, wavelengths are longer with less energy. At the blue end, wavelengths are shorter with more energy. Light that appears white to our eyes often has a large component of blue. This means that the white light of your digital devices is actually blue light with greater energy.
Where do we come into contact with blue light?
In today's world, blue light is all around us. Most comes from the sunlight. But you do not spend much of your time staring directly at the sun. Other sources of blue light include:
- Fluorescent lights
- Flat screen LED televisions
- LED lights
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL)
- Computer monitors
- Tablet screens
Unlike the sun, all of the above sources of blue light are ones you do stare directly into. Proximity to these screens or sources to your eyes and the amount of time we use them make these major sources of blue light in our everyday lives. Even more important is a recent finding by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). They report that children's eyes absorb more of this blue light than adults.
In some ways, blue light is very good for us. In others, it is damaging. All in all, blue light affects eye health.
Effects of Blue Light
Blue light makes us feel more alert. It also elevates our mood, improves memory and helps brain functioning. Further, blue light regulates our circadian rhythm, our natural sleep and wake cycles. When you expose your eyes to blue light during the day, you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. By exposing your eyes to too much at night, you disrupt your circadian rhythm.
In other words, looking at your smartphone, tablet or computer too much at night disrupts your sleep. In turn, this makes you tired during the day.
Studies also show that children not exposed to enough sunlight during the day suffer effects in their growth and development, particularly in eye health and vision. Studies indicate that too little blue light from the sun can contribute to children having myopia, nearsightedness.
How Blue Light Affects Your Eyes
Blue light goes into your eye and passes through your cornea and lens. After doing so, it reaches your retina. This contact with your retina affects your eyesight and can even cause premature aging of your eyes.
Problems related to over-exposure to blue light include digital eye strain and retina damage. Digital eye strain comes from fatigue, bad lighting, dry eyes or how you angle your digital device in your line of sight. Strained eyes feel sore or irritated and do not focus as they should. Retina damage caused by prolonged blue light exposure can actually involve the retinal cells, leading to vision problems. One such vision problem is macular degeneration.
How to Protect Your Eyes from Blue Light
You can decrease your exposure to blue light and protect yourself from its damage. Some ways of decreasing or blocking blue light exposure include:
- Decreasing screen time
- Using screen filters
- Wearing yellow-tinted computer glasses
- Wearing anti-reflective lenses
- Intraocular lens (IOL) placement after cataract surgery
Talk to your eye care professional about these and other ways to protect your eye health from blue light.