How Our High-Tech World is Threatening Our Eyes

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 13-Nov-2014

What do most smartphones, tablets, big screen TVs and fluorescent lighting have in common? They emit a dangerous type of blue light that can wreak havoc on the eyes. Along with the growing number of people experiencing dry eye syndrome and digital eyestrain, long-term exposure to high levels of invisible blue light can result in serious eye damage.

“This is especially true of our lives in 2014,” says Key-Whitman Eye Center’s eye doctor Pat Colerick, O.D. “Our population spends untold hours every day using smartphones, tablets and laptops and being near LED lights and CFL bulbs. Consequently, we have exponentially increased our use of blue light producing light sources. Blue light exposure can damage the retina and exacerbate the blinding diseases macular degeneration.”

Dr. Colerick is careful to point out that there are both “good” and “bad” types of blue light. “The ‘good’ blue light is closer to the mid-range of ultraviolet (UV) light and is found in the blue-turquoise form. It is necessary for maintaining our circadian rhythms, and if we don’t get enough ‘good’ blue light, sleep disruptions or insomnia can occur.”

Exposure to “bad” blue light impedes melanin production and can damage retinal tissue
Dr. Colerick warns that “over exposure to ‘bad’ blue light impedes the production of melanin. We need melanin because it acts like a natural sunscreen that absorbs harmful UV rays and blue light, but melanin production naturally decreases as we get older. Consequently, it becomes easier for this ‘bad’ blue light, (which comes from the deep, dark blues of the invisible light spectrum) to seep through the crystal lens in the eyes and into the retinal tissue.”

“Over time, increased absorption of these harmful blue lights can increase your chances of getting macular degeneration, as well as other retinal and internal eye conditions that decrease the ability to maintain normal vision, especially in our aging population,” Dr. Colerick says.

“Bad” blue light is harmful not only to our eyes but to our skin as well. “In today’s world, we are increasingly exposed to harmful amounts of blue light through our high-tech devices and other sources that emit invisible spectrum lights. Our exposure to LED TVs, smartphones, tablets, computers, high intensity lights in sports arenas and fluorescent lighting in high crime areas will continue to grow and cause more damage over time,” Dr. Colerick warns.

Blue light blocking technology can offer protection
As exposure to “bad” blue light grows and our population ages, there will be an increased need for blue light protection for the skin and eyes. According to Dr. Colerick, “Since we will continue to produce less melanin in the skin, hair and retinal surfaces, we’re going to need to increase the use of blue light blocking protection, such as sunscreens, clothing and protective lenses.”

Dr. Colerick adds, “Several lens manufacturers have already developed quality blue light protection for contact lenses and regular spectacles. This phenomenon hasn’t caught a lot of favor as of yet, because most people don’t realize that our growing exposure to harmful blue light may have severe consequences on their vision.”

This “blue blocking” technology is most commonly found in sunglasses, but is available for standard eyeglass lenses as well. “Along with prescription eyeglasses, we do carry quality sunglasses that decrease glare and haze, as well as the amount of blue light that gets into the retina. A wide range of lenses that offer this blue blocking effect are currently available in today’s market,” Dr. Colerick says.

Speak with you eye doctor about the risks of blue light exposure
If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms, consider yourself a high-tech toy junkie or have general concerns about exposure to harmful blue light, talk with your eye doctor. He or she can conduct a thorough eye health exam and address any questions you have regarding temporary and permanent vision problems due to long-term exposure to harmful blue light.

Categories: Eye Health
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