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Blue Light Exposure Can Lead to Problems Today and Beyond

blue light exposure

The facts about blue light.

Everyday life is ripe with opportunity for dangerous blue light exposure. Simply being out on a clear, sunny day or completing daily tasks on a laptop or digital tablet can lead to harmful exposure to blue light, potentially leading to long-term eye damage. 

Blue light is the most energetic light. It enters our eyes naturally, as part of the full spectrum of sunlight. Blue light is most present when the sky is clear, in the mountains and at sea, and around noon.

But, blue light also is produced artificially by incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and LED bulbs, and by the screens of computer monitors, digital tablets, and smartphones.

Blue light exposure typically is not readily apparent, but it has the potential to be disruptive today and throughout our lives. Once blue light passes through the cornea and lens, it reaches the retina. Research studies show blue light can be toxic once it enters the retina. 

Blue light exposure can result in eye strain and irritation and can lead to premature aging and macular degeneration. Blue light also has been linked to attention-deficit conditions. 

Nearly one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children have an eye problem that, if untreated, could result in permanent vision loss, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. After the age of 60, a number of eye diseases may develop, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and dry eye. 

Blue light exposure early on and throughout life is a common contributor to many of these issues.

Other problems related to blue light exposure include sleep disorders, like insomnia. These disorders can disrupt our bodies’ ability to secrete melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate the natural rhythms that enable us to sleep and ward off disease. Studies link blue light exposure to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

One study found that children’s eyes are at a greater risk of blue light exposure than those of adults.

Blue Light Banning is not an option, but protection is.

Dr. Edward J. Huggett, who previously served as the eye physician for Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, is a Pediatric Vision Clinic of the University of Houston graduate who developed the Low Vision Clinic at the James Haley VA Medical Center Outpatient Clinic.

Dr. Huggett said people who want to minimize their children’s risk of blue light exposure should take steps now.

“We rely on digital devices to help our children learn and for entertainment purposes,” said Dr. Huggett. “Banning our children from digital devices is not an option. However, we have several options to protect us from blue light exposure.

Several products available today reduce the amount of blue light entering our eyes. They include study lighting and screen filters designed for computers, tablets and smartphones.

“Those who want to reduce blue light exposure for their children can take steps toward safer digital activities with blue light reduction (BLR) lighting and screen filters,” said Dr. Huggett.

Screen filters are available for mobile devices, laptops and desktop monitors. These products filter blue light, so less of it reaches our eyes’ retina.

Understanding and addressing blue light exposure risks early on is best practice, according to Dr. Huggett.

“Those who install BLR lamps and digital screen filters, and monitor the amount of time spent with artificial lighting, computers and other digital devices, are investing in their long-term eye health,” said Dr. Huggett.

According to Dr. Huggett, BLR lighting and screen filters also are effective for the older population.

“BLR lamps and filters help protect older eyes from blue light hazards, which causes age-related macular degeneration (AMD),” he said. Many using this protection find that their eyes are no longer dry. The technology also is safe for cataract sufferers." 

Limiting blue light exposure early on and throughout life can help significantly reduce its long-term effects.