About blue light and digital eye strainThursday, 18 April 2019 | Journey
Screen time is unavoidable for most of us these days, which means our eyes are being bombarded at close range with blue light.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is a section of the light spectrum made up of visible, and invisible light. The lower end of the blue light section borders Ultra Violet light (380nm) which is not visible to the human eye. At the upper end of the blue light section (500nm) you find the rest of the visible light within the spectrum.
image credit: bluelightexposed.com
Sunlight is the main source of blue light in our lives, but there are many man-made sources including our digital devices such as laptops, TVs, mobiles and indoor lighting. Devices only produce a fraction of the blue light that we are exposed to from the sun, but the amount of time that we spend in front of them and the proximity of the light source from our eyes can cause problems.
Blue light is made up of harmful light and beneficial light - blue light exposure from the sun plays a critical role in our sleep-wake cycle but overexposure from devices can cause digital eye strain in some people. Over time the harmful component of blue light can also contribute to macular degeneration.
Although research is needed to determine how much natural and man-made blue light is "too much blue light" for the retina, our increased exposure to blue light from screens is enough of a concern that many eye care providers are investing in blue-light blocking technologies which are gaining popularity.
What is Digital Eye Strain?
Blue light is sometimes referred to as high-energy visible light (HEV). Compared to the rest of the visible light spectrum, HEV has a shorter wavelength, meaning it scatters more easily and is more difficult for the eye to focus. The scattered, unfocused light in the eye results in ‘noise’ which contributes to digital eye strain.
Short term signs of digital eye strain include:
- Dry eyes
- Blurred vision
- Tired eyes
Long term symptoms associated with blue light damage are:
- Age-related eye disorders
- Reduced visual performance
- Poor glare recovery
- Retinal and macular damage
Tips to protect against eye strain:
- Consider taking a supplement containing Lutein and Zeaxanthin to ensure you are getting a daily dose of these essential eye antioxidants
- Eat plenty of leafy greens and brightly coloured vegetables to provide vital eye nutrients
- Reduce the blue light setting of your screens
- Avoid looking at screens for at least 2 hours before bed - this will not only help your eyes but also your sleep
- Take regular screen breaks and look away into the mid or far distance at frequent intervals to rest the eyes
- Blink consciously – we tend to blink less when looking at screens so try and blink slowly and deliberately to help prevent dry eyes
- Invest in blue-light-blocking glasses. Special glasses are available with either a yellow-tint or anti-reflective coating to reduce eye strain during prolonged screen use.
- Purchase a blue light filter to go over your screens.
Our Natural Blue Light Protection Supplement
The good news is our eyes have the ability to absorb blue light and protect against eye strain and damage.
To do this we need Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These essential antioxidant nutrients are concentrated in the eye where they filter blue light and protect against free radical damage. Lutein and Zeaxanthin do internally what sunglasses do externally – protect the eyes against light damage.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin can’t be made in the body so must be obtained from our diet, however, studies show many of us may not be getting as much as we need to protect our eyes against the increasing exposure to blue light we are experiencing. Good food sources include egg yolks and dark green, yellow and orange vegetables, or daily intake can be increased through natural supplements such as Manuka Health Vision Shield.
** Article written with input from Manuka Health's in-house Naturopath: Kim Bulder.