How Does Blue Light Affect My Eyes?

Posted by  On 14-09-2021

The fact is that smartphones and digital screens are ubiquitous in our daily lives. Like some sort of divine inspiration that struck the world with enlightenment and innovation, and we all adopted smartphones and devices with incredible speed.

While the advantages of this new technology are innumerable, there are some unexpected downsides, too, including most specifically in the increased exposure to blue light and the lack of clarity around what this overexposure may be doing to our eyes and brains.

While this topic is big, broad, and still undergoing research, please read on to see what we already know about prolonged blue light exposure and how we can protect ourselves.

What is blue light?

Light comes in several different colours across the entire spectrum it occupies. These include colours like red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, and, of course, blue light.

Taken all together, they make the white light that you see from sources like the sun, which is the main origin of blue light in our lives. Even basic fluorescent and LED light bulbs will give off blue light to some degree.

The key aspect about the different colours of light is that they have different wavelengths and different energy levels. Blue light typically has a shorter wavelength and a higher energy ratio than other colours. The length it occupies is between 415 to 455 nanometres, but most critically, some research has shown a link between eye damage and this type of short-wave blue light.

This is worrisome because the LEDs used in many modern digital devices (from smartphones to TVs and tablets) have a wavelength well within the range of the blue light spectrum boundaries, which is typically between 400 and 490 nanometres.

Perception Is Reality

What also may be helpful in assessing the potential impacts of blue light is understanding how exactly we perceive colour. Basically, our eyes use four main light-sensitive cells, including three cone photoreceptors and one rod photoreceptor all hiding in the corners of our retina.

During a sunny day, the cones actively absorb and sense light, with each peaking in sensitivity to either blue, green, or red aspects of the aforementioned light spectrum. Therefore, our understanding of colour is entirely dependent on the balance of activity between these cone cells and how they add to become colour.

In the dark is when the rod kicks in, capturing the grayscale blackness around you owing to the lack of light to activate the cone cells.

Blue Light Technology

A big question is why is the blue light emitted from modern technology any different from the blue light that we’re exposed to on a regular basis from going outside?

The main difference is that whereas light sources like the sun have a broad spectrum, meaning the electromagnetic waves emitted have very low energy, light produced by electrical screens has much narrower wavelengths, meaning that they carry a lot more energy with them. Even the sun’s low energy can damage your eyes, now think of the potential risks with prolonged bluelight exposure.

You can’t perceive it, but the LEDs in computer systems can actually emit more blue light than you’d assume. When blue light is absorbed and detected by your eyes, it acts as a stimulant that keeps you up, this is why some people recommend using less technology before bed so you can sleep better.

Blue Light and the Health of Your Eyes

The most obvious and damaging effect from blue light on your eyes is that any sort of high-energy light, whether it’s ultraviolet or blue light, from the sun or digital screens can increase your risk of eye disease. Of course, this research mainly centres around exposure to the sun, with more studies needed to establish a definitive link between whether blue light in a different context can be harmful.

What is more notable and definite is the fact that there’s definitely something called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome, which is a condition that affects about half of computer users and prompts dry, irritated eyes, and blurred vision.

Another risk is that blue light may damage your retinas through a process called phototoxicity. This will depend largely on the type of wavelength and exposure time, but studies in animals have shown that even short exposure ranging from just a few minutes to several hours can be harmful for retinas. Thankfully, you can apply filters that cut down on the amount of blue light your eyes are exposed to, which can definitely lessen the potential damage to your eyes.

Of course, the laundry list of potential risks doesn’t end here. In fact, blue light could lead to permanent changes in your vision. This is because virtually all the blue light that you see is filtered directly through your eyes into the back of your retina. Because of this, your eyes may experience a serious condition called macular degeneration, which is a disease of the retina.

Taken together, research currently indicates that blue light exposure may lead to age-related macular degeneration, potentially because the light will trigger the release of toxic molecules in photoreceptor cells, thus causing the damage that eventually leads to this deteriorating condition.

Closing Thoughts

Blue light is something that requires a lot of explanation to understand. You have to be able to grasp how the spectrums of light function, how they can be broken down into colours, and how your eyes work. From there, you can draw connections between the higher occurrence of blue light and the technology you use. Then, with further research pending, you can figure out how harmful this light actually is to your eyes.

By this point, you should be rather familiar with both what blue light is and how it can affect your eyes in a multitude of ways. Of course, while you can do your best to avoid it, the unfortunate truth is that blue light is virtually unavoidable in modern society. Still, while you can’t avoid its effects, you can respond to any eye wear and tear with Lasik in Toronto and otherwise. If you’re interested in getting a professional perspective, reach out to us at the Clearview Vision Institute. Call us at 647-493-6196 or reach us via our contact page here.

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