Blue about blue light
Our love affair with technology can wreck our vision, not to mention our sleep, thanks to blue light.
One of several colors in the visible light spectrum, blue light is abundant in sunshine, and in your flat-screen television, computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone, as well as in compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights. The body needs blue light, but in moderation, to boost both memory and alertness, enhance mood and improve attention span and reaction times, plus regulate circadian rhythm that allows for restful sleep. However, it can be too much of a good thing.
“The problem is that, with technology, we are being overexposed to blue light,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Rafael Trespalacios of Tres Vision Group in Melbourne, Merritt Island and Suntree.
Although exposure from sources such as laptops and phones is small when compared to exposure from the sun, the close proximity of these screens and our dependence on them is cause for concern from the experts.
“Because all blue light reaches the retina, it can affect vision and prematurely age the eyes,” added Dr. Trespalacios.
Too much exposure to blue light can cause eye fatigue, dry eyes, and difficulty focusing. Even worse, research suggests that extended exposure can damage retinal cells, leading to life-changing disorders such as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in older adults in developed countries, affecting more than 200 million individuals around the globe.
An additional issue with overexposure to blue light during the evening hours is that can negatively affect your sleep cycle, causing insomnia and daytime exhaustion. Before the advent of artificial lighting, people would live in relative darkness once the sun went down. Now, the world is illuminated well into the night. The blue light of artificial lighting can suppress secretion of melatonin, the hormone that regulates circadian rhythm. Research has pointed to insufficient sleep as a culprit in developing depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.
To decrease the negative effects of blue light, Dr. Trespalacios recommends decreasing screen time and making time for frequent “eye rest” breaks. Screen filters, available for computer screens, tablets and phones, can decrease the amount of blue light given off by these devices. Yellow-tinted computer glasses can help by increasing contrast.
Anti-reflective lenses in reading glasses can also increase contrast; they also serve to block blue light from all sources.
Cataract surgery can significantly protect eyes and retina from blue light and all ultraviolet light with blue-blocking intraocular lenses that replace the eye’s own original but now cloudy lens.
Patients now have the option to choose blue-blocking intraocular lenses to replace the yellow, aged lenses during cataract surgery. These yellow-tinted lenses block both U V light and the blue-violet wavelengths, mimicking healthy crystalline lenses. Both animal and experimental studies have demonstrated the significant protective effect of these lenses, particularly with patients at higher risk of blue light overexposure.
In the past, exposure to blue light was primarily limited to daylight hours, when the sun was shining. However, the current technology and state-of-the-art lighting with which we live have increased our exposure to blue light, putting our eyes at risk around the clock. Returning to a world lit by candles is not an option, but we need not be as dependent on blue light.
“We cannot live in the dark, but we can minimize our exposure to blue light,” said Dr. Trespalacios.
For more information, call 321-984-3200 or visit TresVision.com.