Blue light is part of visible light, and thus is all around us. Screens of all sorts, indoor lighting, and the sun all are sources of blue light. In this image a desk lamp emits blue light dramatically onto a piece of paper with an eye sketched on it. The represents a dramatic example of blue light exposure.
Our eye care philosophy here at Vista Eye Care is centered around the idea that prevention is the best means to assure a lifetime of healthy eyes and great vision. Blue light, the higher-energy portion of the visible spectrum, can seriously affect your eye health and vision over time. Blue light exposure leads to a visually crippling eye disease called macular degeneration and is also is suspected to contribute to the formation of early cataracts. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States in patients over the age of 50, and is more prevalent then Parkinson’s Disease, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and prostate cancer combined. Macular degeneration is a chronic, painless loss of vision. Standard treatment for wet macular degeneration is a medicated syringe shot delivered directly into the eye ball itself. This treatment largely aims at preventing the condition from worsening, though all too often, even treated patients retain significant, permanent vision loss. Preventing macular degeneration from occurring in the first place is clearly the ideal scenario.
A patient’s risk factors for getting macular degeneration are family history (there is about a 1 in 2 chance of getting the disease if one parent has macular degeneration), smoking status, and amount of macular pigmentation. While you can’t argue with your genetics, you can certainly quit smoking which is the first step in assuring you are doing what you can to help avoid this disease. Macular pigmentation is the retina’s own natural defense. The more macular pigment you have, the more resistant you will likely be to acquiring macular disease. At Vista Eye Care, we recommend that all of our patient’s over the age of 30 sit for a simple test that measures your Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD). This test tells us your risk of getting macular degeneration based on how much pigment is located at your macula. If your macular pigmentation is low, we have an excellent dietary supplement called Restore which provides the body with lutein and zeaxanthin which act to enhance your own macular pigment.
Besides causing macular disease, blue light also suppresses the body’s ability to produce melatonin. This can result in difficulty getting to sleep and reduce the quality of your sleep. Blue light exposure has even been linked with long-term health issues such as diabetes and obesity. Apple famously countered this phenomenon in March of 2016 with the addition of “Night Shift” software to their iOS release. This software purposefully alters the colors of their iPhone screens to prevent too much blue light from disturbing the sleep patterns of the user. While a great idea, blue light obviously comes from far more sources than just your iPhone or tablet screen –don’t forget about television, computer screens, fluorescent lights, and the sun!
Ultraviolet radiation is commonly blocked with sunglasses (those that state they block UVA or UVB radiation), but these glasses are not able to block short wavelength light (blue light). Blue light can be effectively filtered by a lens technology called Crizal Prevencia. Crizal Prevencia relies on a lens technology that inherently prevents a good portion of blue light from reaching the eye. This is especially important for children (who also spend plenty of time staring at electronic screens) and those adults with low MPOD scores.
Modern technology can both hurt and help the eye. Our days are spent staring at blue light-emitting computer monitors and phones, though many people really doesn’t do much to protect themselves from this prevalent (even omnipresent) radiation. Please ask one of our optometrists at your next annual visit, or stop by and speak with one of our opticians to learn more about how you can block blue light with your own glasses lenses and save your eyes!
For more information on preventing macular degeneration, please refer to the following articles (in *.PDF format):