The light that illuminates computers, televisions, and cellphones is called blue light, and while it is not a new phenomenon, the risks of too much exposure from blue light can have lasting negative effects on your eyes, brain, body, and sleep patterns.
Blue light is a part of the visible light spectrum. Blue light has a short wavelength of 450-495 nm that causes it to produce higher energy than light with longer wavelengths, such as red or orange light. The sun produces a natural blue light, while indoors artificial blue light emits from technology devices and fluorescent and LED bulbs.
“Blue light because of its frequency interferes with particles in the atmosphere, which causes glare and in turn creates headaches and eye strain,” said Dr. Dora Cantu of Opia Vision Center, located off West 27th Street.
Overexposure to blue light can cause symptoms among many people today whether they are older or younger in age. Along with eyestrain that can lead to mild or blaring headaches after a few hours on the computer, some people have tired or itchy eyes after a day at the office.
But eyestrain is only the beginning, and many people are in danger of greater vision loss.
A recent study shows a link between overexposure to blue light and macular degeneration. The central part of the retina is irreversibly damaged in those who suffer from macular degeneration. The central part of the retina is called the macula and it is the inner back layer that records the images we see and focuses our vision. The reason blue light is linked to be possible cause for macular degeneration is because of the way blue light penetrates the eye. If the eye is overexposed it can damage the macula, thus creating macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration creates vision loss in our sharp vision. Sharp vision is the sight that we need to be able to drive a car, read a book, recognize a face, and even see color. While it does not lead to complete blindness, it does make it harder to live a normal life.
There is an estimated eleven million Americans living with macular degeneration. Retina specialists are predicting that the number will likely double by the time the younger generation reaches the age where macular degeneration is a cause for worry. That age is usually fifty years old and up, but more often the sufferers are in their seventies. Specialists are worried they will begin to see people with signs of macular degeneration more often in people in their fifties than their seventies. They also believe people who have a family history of macular degeneration, who are already prone to have it, will get this eye disease at a younger age.
During the day, the eyes protect themselves from blue light. The eyes have a thin layer that coats the retina, but the layer isn’t very strong. It weakens after too much blue light exposure and it’s completely absent during the nighttime hours.
Blue light in the dark has extensive penalties for the eyes as well as the circadian rhythm and melatonin levels. The circadian rhythm is your body’s biological clock. It also helps the body recognize when it is time to go to sleep and wake up. Research has shown exposure to blue light at night suppresses the melatonin production levels.
Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland and that’s what controls the sleep and wake cycles. Generally, the melatonin begins to release a few hours before your routine bedtime. Though the hormone does not put you to sleep it does make you feel more tired.
The suppression of melatonin comes from the blue light coming from a device or light bulb. It can also happen if enough blue light simply hits your eye long enough to absorb the light and you don’t have to look directly into blue light for it to effect you.
Some of the symptoms of over exposure to blue light during the night hours are insomnia, trouble falling asleep, not getting enough hours of sleep, and tiredness during the day. Sleep derivation can also cause the immune system to be impaired and make a person more susceptible to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
“If we can block the blue wave length, then we can block glare and protect your eyes from harmful diseases,” said Dr. Cantu.
Luckily there is new technology that will make it easier to combat the effects of blue light exposure.
“At Opia Vision Center we are receiving a new technology called NeuroLens. This technology is arriving for the first time in Texas to our clinic on April 16 and is specifically designed to prevent eye fatigue caused by digital devices and their blue light.”
The clinic will offer in person computer fatigue screenings to help decide whether someone needs the NeuroLens, which are special coded lenses that go into regular eyeglass frames. Whether someone is nearsighted, farsighted, or have perfect vision, these lenses will protect their eyes from potential health problems.
On the Oak Forest Facebook page Eric Ochoa suggested getting a pair of Gunnar glasses for prolonged sessions in front of screens. The lenses are designed to give the wearer extra focusing power with proprietary tints, which will give the wearer clearer vision while blocking blue light.
They offer computer, gaming, prescription, and sunglass options.
Specialists recommend wearing glasses with specially constructed lenses, like, the NeuroLens and Gunnar Lens, that deflect blue light. Eye Doctors also advise people to turn off all devices that emit blue light two to three hours before going to bed if they have trouble falling asleep at night. These few changes in a person’s routine may very well make an immense difference and defend against potential eye and health problems.