The light spectrum stretches far beyond what we can see – or what most people notice daily.
For example, ultraviolet radiation is an invisible form of light emitted by the sun. It has long been associated with cellular damage that can lead to certain kinds of cancer. Some things, like the sun, never change. But changes in technology can lead to differences in the type of light we’re exposed to every day. For example, consider the relatively recent phase-out of incandescent light bulbs around the world in favor of LED lights.
At the beginning of this change, many people noted that LED light was visibly different from the incandescent light they knew well. One crucial difference was the shift from mostly yellow light to a “purer” white light. Luckily, LED light bulbs are not known to be associated with health problems. But there is one modern form of light that has many medical researchers working overtime to understand its effects: It is blue light, the kind of light emitted by most computer and smartphone displays.
Understanding Blue Light: What It Is and Where It Comes From
Over the last two decades, blue light in the environment has skyrocketed.
When scientists talk about blue light, they’re referring to high-energy light that sits right beside the invisible ultraviolet spectrum. This light has a frequency above 380 nanometers. In a focused form, it can be potent – and it appears in virtually all digital technologies. Small LED’s light modern digital displays. Unlike an LED light bulb, which allows light to diffuse over a large area, these lights create a focused field of light. Many people spend upwards of five hours a day with their eyes focused on this artificial “energy field.”
Vision care specialists have long known that blue light can be toxic to eye structures in certain situations. The risk is unusually high for children and teens, whose eye lenses can absorb more light than those of adults. Reduced light transmittance with age provides some protection. However, blue light has never been as abundant in the environment as it is today. With that in mind, ophthalmologists and other eye experts are striving to inform patients about possible risks.
Blue Light Considerations for Health
Research shows two main issues arising from blue light exposure: Eye strain and sleep disorders.
Chronic blue light exposure raises the risk of eye strain and retinal damage. Over time, this can cause reductions in vision, even among younger patients. Several products can help, including screen covers that filter blue light and apps that turn blue light down during the day. Patients who wear glasses may opt for specialized lenses that block some light in the blue part of the spectrum.
The other issue involves sleep disturbance. The human body wakes up and falls asleep based on precise hormonal changes controlled by an internal clock, the circadian rhythm. The brain uses changes in light levels to remain situated in time. Because of its similarity to the dispersed light of the daytime – think of blue skies – blue light can disrupt this 24-hour cycle.
In non-medical parlance, blue light exposure makes the body “later.” This delay can enable people to stay up later without feeling an ordinary level of fatigue. Upon going to bed, it may take longer to fall asleep and enter the deeper, more restorative phases of the sleep cycle. Hormonal cycles and neurochemical processes associated with sleep diminish or disappear.
No one can avoid blue light exposure in the modern world. Still, it is essential to be mindful concerning exposure and your options. Dr. Delianides can help you take steps to reduce blue light exposure. Lifestyle changes are only one part of the equation. Suitable eyeglasses and other aids can also be helpful. Contact us today at Atlantic Eye Consultants for personalized advice from the eye care experts.