When Blue Light Strikes

Dangerous habits: Child looking at digital device in a darkened room

Our eyes are designed specifically to process light, so it’s difficult to think that over the course of a lifetime light damages them.

Exposure to all types of visible and non-visible light happens continuously and it has a direct impact on our body and mind, some positive, some negative. It’s impossible to stop the transmission of light or to know which is the most valuable for our well-being. But, based on what we’ve learned, we can certainly filter what experts have learned as potentially damaging high-energy visible light and prevent it from harming us over a lifetime.

This article will emphasize the pros and cons of blue-violet and blue-turquoise light. As we navigate the digital age, it is important to know what we are exposed to when we use various and common devices. Blue light has become a topic that professionals and the media are talking about, mainly HEV light emitted from digital devices. Is this type of light dangerous? What are the risks?

Blue light, in its natural form, over a range of certain wavelengths is necessary for many reasons: full color and photopic-vision, melatonin/serotonin regulation, body temperature, mood, etc.

Blue light wavelengths are part of the electromagnetic visible spectrum. These waves emit energy; the shorter the wavelength, the higher the energy. It is this energy, over long periods of time, which researchers have suggested we need adequate protection from.

Because blue light has a very short wavelength, it produces a higher amount of energy than the other wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Some studies have shown that over time, exposure to the blue light could cause serious long-term damage to our eyes.

We should consider managing exposure to blue light and there are some potential fixes available: blue light attenuating lenses that can reduce blue light from screens by dimming the screen and of course, reducing screen time.

Sunlight has the most blue light exposure. We know not to look directly at the sun since even short periods of exposure can easily cause solar retinopathy due to high-intensity solar radiation. This means that we should wear blue light protection indoors and blue light and glare protection outdoors, to avoid discomfort and photochemical damage.

LEDs and Blue Light.
LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) have been a great innovation for office and home lighting as well as computer screens and monitors. This has allowed thinner, brighter, lighter, and much more energy efficient devices. The advantages of this technology has had a dramatic change in the lighting around us. But not everything is an advantage depending on the distance from our eyes to these light sources, and the frequency and time we spend looking at them.

Beneficial / Non-Beneficial Blue Light?
Blue light is everywhere, most exposure comes from sunlight. The shorter, high energy blue wavelengths collide with air molecules causing blue light to scatter which makes the sky appear blue. These wavelengths vibrate more easily than longer wavelengths. This kind of unsteady light produces glare that can diminish visual contrast and affect sharpness and clarity of vision. It contributes to eyestrain, headaches, and physical and mental fatigue produced by many hours sitting in front of computer screen or other devices. This means that augmenting protection to our eyes’ natural filters can provide sufficient protection against blue light rays from the sun and electronic devices.

In its natural form our body uses blue light from the sun to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycles. This is known as your “circadian rhythm.” Blue light also helps to boost alertness, heighten reaction time, elevate mood, hormone production, and increase the feeling of well-being. Blue light therapy has been used with positive results in treating certain mood disorders.

Exposure
The Lighting Research Center at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute stated that, “…it takes an average of 13 hours in front of a computer screen to equal the amount of 15 minutes of sunlight blue lux. One hour of direct LED lighting equals 15 minutes of sunlight blue lux”

Most of us, in a normal day, spend more than 2 hours staring at a digital screen, whether it is work related or just for fun. Some studies stated that 60% to 70% of people spend more than eight hours a day in front of a digital device. With the potential for these devices to emit high-energy visible (HEV) blue light, we all could benefit one way or the other from learning about protection.

Protect Eyes from Blue Light?
Take precaution against the effects of blue light, whether out in the sunlight or indoors. Consider the products from different companies that have developed lens products designed to filter HEV and UV light. Research blue light attenuating lenses available at a number of companies.

Blue light, is necessary for our health and well being in the right wavelengths and amounts. Be aware of the visual and non-visual direct effects of blue light.

Article References

  1. Conrad, Karen S., Craig C. Manahan, and Brian R. Crane. “Photochemistry of Flavoprotein Light Sensors.” Nature Chemical Biology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 07 Nov. 2016. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258882/)
  2. Holzman, David C. “What’s in a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light.” Environmental Health Perspectives 118.1 (2010): n. pag. Web.
  3. Dai, Tianhong, Asheesh Gupta, Clinton K. Murray, Mark S. Vrahas, George P. Tegos, and Michael R. Hamblin. “Blue Light for Infectious Diseases: Propionibacterium Acnes, Helicobacter Pylori, and Beyond?” Drug Resistance Updates 15.4 (2012): 223-36. Web.
  4. Dunbar, Dr. Mark, and Dr. Donald Melton. “The Lowdown on Blue Light: Good vs. Bad, and Its Connection to AMD.” N.p., 15 Feb. 2014. Web. 07 Nov. 2016. (https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/ce/the-lowdown-on-blue-light-good-vs-bad-and-its-connection-to-amd-109744#top)
  5. Gomes, Cristina Caramelo, and Sandra Preto. “Blue Light: A Blessing or a Curse?” Procedia Manufacturing 3 (2015): 4472-479. Web. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351978915004606)
  6. Cloude, Gronfier. “The Good Blue and Chronobiology: Light and Non-visual Functions.” Points De Vue. N.p., May 2013. Web. 08 Nov. 2016. (http://www.pointsdevue.com/article/good-blue-and-chronobiology-light-and-non-visual-functions)
Marlon Lopez

About Marlon Lopez

Marlon Lopez, ABO, NCLE earned his Ophthalmic Science Associates Degree from Raritan Valley Community College. He began his career by becoming a certified paraoptometric and enjoys interacting with patients who present different challenges.

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