By: Dr. Amber Teten – Chesapeake Eye Doctor
In today’s digital age, we are exposed to more artificial light than ever. This artificial light exposure has pushed eye doctors to educate their patients more about this light and how it can affect their eyesight. Artificial light includes the blue light emitted from our devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions. While this light has made our lives more convenient, it has also raised concerns about its impact on our health, particularly our eye health. We’ll explore the physics of the visible light spectrum, our sleep cycles and their battle with artificial light, and the impact of blue light on eye health. Ultimately, the concerns about artificial light exposure will point us toward ensuring that you see your eye doctor regularly.
For further discussion and background on how things such as blue light, which can affect your eyesight. Can also effect your school and work performance, check out our blog from our eye doctor, Dr. Teten.
The Physics of the Visible Light Spectrum
Light comprises different colors, each with its wavelength and energy. These colors are combined to form the visible light spectrum, which includes red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet (ROY-G-BIV). The visible light spectrum is just one part of the electromagnetic spectrum, including ultraviolet (UV) and infrared light.
Blue light has a short wavelength and high energy, which makes it capable of penetrating deep into our eyes. This makes blue light particularly harmful, as it can cause damage to the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. The retina has small photoreceptors that detect light and send the signals, almost like picture pixels, through the optic nerve into the brain to be processed as an image of what we see. The retina comprises ten separate layers, each valuable in this process.
Our Sleep Cycles Must Battle Artificial Light
Our circadian rhythm, also known as our sleep cycle, is influenced daily by light exposure. The blue light emitted from our devices can interfere with our sleep cycle by suppressing melatonin production. What is melatonin? Melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep. This interruption of the body’s melatonin can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, making it more difficult for us to fall asleep and stay asleep. Depending on age, our bodies and brains need a healthy 8-10 hours or more to refuel our bodies and let our brains rest and process what happens and what we learn during the day. This is especially important for children as they learn so much daily and must sleep enough to grow, learn and stay healthy.
The Impact of Blue Light on Eye Health
Exposure to blue light can have a significant impact on our eye health. Blue light has been linked to digital eye strain, characterized by symptoms such as dry eyes, headaches, eye fatigue, and eye focusing (or accommodation) dysfunctions. Why does this occur? As earlier said, blue light has a higher energy and a shorter wavelength than other colors in the visible light spectrum. This makes it capable of penetrating deep into the retina, causing damage to the cells in the eye, specifically the retina. The retina-specific spot, the macula, is responsible for our clearest, most detailed vision.
The macula can become damaged and deteriorate as we age, a condition called Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Long-term exposure to blue light has been linked to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD occurs when the photoreceptor cells in the macula, the part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision, degenerate. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Vision loss is associated with a decreased lifestyle of independence and often requires vision aides to assist in daily activities.
Have you heard of cataracts? Blue light has been linked to the earlier onset of cataracts. Cataracts are an eye health condition where the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, with varying opacity or blocking of the light coming from outside and then going into the eye. Often cataracts cause glare in the daytime in the sun, while raining, and during the evening with headlights. In extreme cases, significant cataracts can lead to decreased vision and even vision loss. The high-energy blue light can cause oxidative stress to our natural eye lens, leading to the formation of cataracts at an early age.
How to Protect Your Eye Health from Blue Light
You can take several steps to protect your eye health from blue light exposure. These include:
- Reduce Screen Time and be knowledgeable about your daily exposure to blue light.
- Reduce the time you spend looking at screens, especially before bedtime.
- Eye doctors highly recommend having outside light exposure, even on a cloudy day, of 60-90 minutes daily.
- Try to limit your exposure to digital screens before bed. Try to turn those screens off 1-2 hours before your bedtime. Spend time reading a book or chatting with your family about the day.
- It is highly recommended that young children have less than 30 minutes of digital screen exposure daily.
- Use Blue Light Filters on devices where available.
- Consider using a blue light filter on your devices to reduce your exposure to blue light. Some devices have built-in blue light filters, or you can download a blue light filtering app.
- Wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses for both kids and adults.
- Blue light-blocking glasses have lenses specifically designed to reduce exposure to blue light. They can be beneficial if you spend a lot of time looking at screens.
- GlamBaby is one of our favorite children’s blue light protection glasses for children at Navigation Eye Care.
- At Navigation Eye Care, we offer quality coatings to protect your prescription lenses from the penetration of blue light. Ask us about them next time you stop by.
- We offer the newest technology in contact lenses with built-in blue light protection. Until recently, blue light protection in contact lenses was utterly unheard of; now, that is a thing of the past.
- Wear glasses or contact lenses that reduce digital eye strain. We offer both Eyezen prescription lenses for children and adults. And we also offer premium contact lenses proven to reduce the effects of digital eye strain during your work or study day.
- Practice Good Lighting Habits
- Ensure the lighting in your home and workspace is appropriate for the task.
- Use dimmer switches to control the brightness of your lights, and do not work on a digital device or watch television in the dark. Avoid fluorescent lights, as this also causes increased glare and light sensitivity.
For further discussion on blue light effects on your eyes, check out our blog.
So, if you have any issues with blue light exposure and need help to limit your exposure. We encourage you to call the Navigation Eye Care team at 757-529-6889 or schedule an appointment. We are equipped and prepared to care for you and your whole family. If you are looking for excellent service in a friendly manner, check us out. We highly recommend that you choose Navigation Eye Care when looking for a top eye doctor in Chesapeake. We will serve in the Chesapeake area for many years and can’t wait to see you and your family.