Dangers of Blue Light
By Tommy Lim, O.D.
High energy visible light, also known as blue light, is posing a new threat to eye health. Within the past year, the topic of blue light has become very popular among vision scientists, appearing in many news publications throughout the nation. Blue light technology is not new; researchers have always known of its negative effects on our eyes. It is because we are now a society that is exposed to blue light, more than we could ever have imagined in years past, that there is new research on this topic and its negative effects.
The May 2012 issue of the Harvard Health Letter stated that:
- Blue light has a potentially dark side, both in the day time as well as night time
- Exposure to blue light emitted by electronic devices and energy-efficient light bulbs, especially at night, may be bad for your overall health; exposure to blue light at night disrupts the body's biological clock, the Circadian Rhythm, and can result in disruption of one's sleep cycle
According to experts in the field, there is growing concern that blue light may cause harmful effects on the health of our eyes. Blue light plays two major roles. It plays a positive role in color vision perception as well as a potentially damaging role in three other areas:
- Blurred vision
- Macular degeneration
- Sleep deprivation
Blurred vision: "Greening" efforts have changed incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent and energy efficient lights, which emit much more blue light. The same is true for computers, smart phones, iPads and LED (light emitting diode) flat screen devices. This type blue light, is seen by the eye as “scattered”. For many people this results in increased glare, blurred vision, eyestrain or headaches.
Macular degeneration: There is growing evidence that exposure to blue light, over time, may increases the risk of developing macular degeneration, This is especially true for those individuals that are at risk or have a history of macular degeneration in the family.
Sleep deprivation: Our body normally secretes Melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. Blue light suppresses the secretion of Melatonin. Exposure to natural sun light (and the blue light therein) monitors the production of Melatonin during the day to just the right amount that the body needs, storing it for release later in the evening when blue light is normally not present; Melatonin, the body's natural clock hormone, is then released during the night, telling your body it is time to sleep.
Though there may be only five or ten percent transmittance of blue light coming off the computer screen, smart phone or iPad, the real problem is that often times these screens are positioned very closely to the users face. This results in even more blue light being directly projected into the eye. Children are especially at risk because they lack any Ocular Lens Pigment, which develops with age and helps filter the dangerous blue light. It is not just the proximity of these devices to our eyes that is cause for concern; it is the sheer amount of time that children and adults spend in front of them.
Today's technological era, dominated by computers, smart phones, iPads and LED screens and the subsequent exposure to negative blue light, creates concerns that previous generations never faced. Berryessa Optometry is one of the first offices in the Bay Area to prescribe special lenses with a "medical benefit," the BluTech lens. These lenses selectively filter out the harmful blue light, enhancing visual comfort and minimizing glare and eyestrain. Using state-of-the-art technology, these lenses have a patented filtering agent imbedded in the lens material itself that duplicates what our body naturally produces, Ocular Lens Pigment and Melanin. These two components help filter out just the right amount of blue light. Contact lens wearers or patients that do not need a prescription can also use the BluTech lens technology by having these lenses made into an ophthalmic frame. By using BluTech lens, our eyes can now be protected from blue light in the way that nature intended.
It is our professional opinion that patients who spend hours on the computer, smart phone, iPad and LED screens may benefit from minimizing their exposure to blue light by using the BluTech lens. Patients that are at risk of macular degeneration or have sleep pattern difficulties may also benefit from using the BluTech lens as well. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: