When you hear "blue light special," most likely you think of bargains offered by a big box store. Not this time.
Well then, what is it?
You know those wonderful devices we use every day, sometimes for hours on end? If you don't know what I'm talking about yet, just look at the end of your arm. Most likely (if not you, then your children), there is a smart phone, game boy, kindle, tablet, or laptop connected to your arm. Yes, all of our devices out there, from our phones, to every type of computer that has a screen, to our wonderful LED televisions, even energy saving light bulbs put off a spectrum of blue light that we have never encountered prior to this computer age.
I imagine you're going somewhere with this?
Yes! While this specific spectrum of blue light, sometimes referred to as "blue violet," enhances our viewing experience, the high intensity of blue light that is emitted can cause quite a number of problems:
-Tired, dry and irritated eyes
-Blurred or double vision
-Disrupted sleep patterns
Let's look a little deeper. Anytime you spend much time concentrating on something, you tend to blink less, so you are already prone to tired, dry and irritated eyes, and then add that pesky blue light . .
Blurred or double vision. Prolonged exposure certainly contributes. Additionally, for you to see things clearly, the light needs to focus on the back of your eye. When you are looking at something through blue light, the image starts to blur, not enough for you to readily tell what is happening, but your brain detects that something just isn't right, which can lead to headaches.
The brightness of blue light tricks our circadian rhythms making our brains think that its still fully daylight and time to work, making it difficult for our brains to shut down for rest and/or sleep.
As we go along, research is finding out more and more about problems that may be the result of blue light. It has been noted that since children are using these devices late into the evening, they are not able to get into deep REM sleep which may be causing behavioral problems.
Studies are also showing that exposure to blue light in rats kills retinal cells, causing macular degeneration, which is our source for our central vision. When these cells are damaged, or die, your central vision is completely gone leaving a large black spot in the middle of everything you look at.
Is everyone at risk?
Its difficult to tell at this time. Right now we are being told that those at most risk are those who have a family history of macular degeneration, contact lens wearers, children and SMOKERS.
Children are especially at risk because their arms are shorter and their pupils are larger, which mean more exposure. The body's natural protection at the back of the eye that decreases over time, is not fully developed in children until the age of 12. Additionally, schools are removing text books and white boards and replacing them with tablets and smart boards (LED backed chalk boards - but no chalk). Our concern is when our young children graduate, will they be employable, or on disability because of macular degeneration?
Another at-risk group is smokers. Smoking in itself can lead to macular degeneration. Add to that blue light exposure and you begin creating the perfect storm for macular degeneration.
Yikes, can I do something about this?
Yes, but don't be fooled. Soon the internet will be filled with resources and undoubtedly there will be knockoffs that will promise protection, but won't deliver. Educate yourself on what blue light is, in detail, and be sure to read the fine print in everything. There are blue light filter apps for some devices, but I question whether it actually protects your retina. More on this as research is performed. Presently our office offers many ways to protect your eyes from blue light. Please contact us with any questions you may have.
- Eye vitamins. (We don't have these at our office but can be purchased at any pharmacy over the counter). There are specific eye vitamins to help protect the macular pigment. Look for eye vitamins with at least 10 mg of lutein (less if you experience any allergic reaction), and zeaxanthin. Go to our page on macular degeneration for an article from Dr. Atkins about these vitamins. Of course if you don't want the vitamins, you can eat 40 large eggs everyday, or 2 pounds of corn everyday, or 2 pounds of chopped broccoli daily, or 3 cups of raw spinach daily. I think I'll reach for the vitamins. WARNING: if you are a smoker, be sure to select the eye vitamin made for smokers. Taking the vitamin for non-smokers while smoking will actually accelerate the macular degeneration process! Go to our page about Macular Degeneration for more infromation.
- If you wear glasses, you should have at least a blue-light blocker added on to your lenses or purchase photochromic lenses (these are the lenses that change from light to dark when you go outside.
- Cocoon Blue Light Filters. These are like the sunglasses that fit over your prescription glasses featuring Purify HEV blue light filters. These Cocoons offer 85% protection and come in eight frame designs.
Leader blue-blocking non-prescription glasses. These are a great option for those who don't need prescription glasses or are contact lens wearers. These block 100% of the HEV blue light. They are also available in readers from +1.00 to +2.50 and come with a soft case.
UPDATE (1/19) - We are no longer able to get device screens from EyeSafe. EyeSafe has partnered with Zagg in producing glass protectors for phones, watches, and iPads that incorporates the EyeSafe technology. You may purchase these glass screens at Zagg.com. PLEASE NOTE - these screens are specifically for the retail market and the blocking ability is about 15%. We are hoping for a medical-grade glass screen in the near future that will offer closer to 30% protection.