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Digital screens: is it bad for your eyes?

Dear reader,

image2As we are speeding towards the end of the year, most of us are tired and very much ready for our well-earned rest over the December holidays!  But many of us are also still working hard, finishing projects or writing exams, and spending many hours focusing on computer and other digital screens. 

There is a new coating on the market, the Blue Control Antiglare Coating that is making waves in our industry, specifically designed to reduce eye fatigue on digital screens.  I am very excited to introduce you to it.

Digital screens: is it bad for your eyes?

Living in a world full of technology, digital devices and exciting apps to try out, the question has come up:  What effect has this on our eyes?  People have started to complain more and more of eye fatigue, strain on their eyes, headaches and even sleeplessness.  What role, if any, does the light emitted by these digital screens play in these symptoms?  And if it does, what needs to be done to prevent any permanent damage because of this?

Let’s start with some background on light.

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Visible light might be a bit more complex than you think. You get light rays with long wavelengths, on the red end of the visible light spectrum; and then light rays with shorter wavelengths, on the blue end of the visible light spectrum. The shorter the wavelength, the more energy it contains.

The electromagnetic rays just outside the red end of the visible light spectrum (therefore being invisible), are infrared.  On the other end of the visible light spectrum, blue-violet light rays become invisible, called ultraviolet, or UV radiation.  These light rays have very short wavelengths and therefore emits very high levels of energy.  You may already know that too much exposure to UV rays can burn the skin, and have bad effects on one’s eyes, causing cataracts and pterygium growths.  But did you know that the visible blue light also has an effect on your eyes?

The main source of blue light is of course the sun.  But there are also man-made sources of blue light, like LED and fluorescent lighting.  The display screens of computers, electronic notebooks and tablets, TV screens, smartphones and other digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light.  Although the amount that these devices emit is much less than that emitted by the sun, the amount of time people spend nowadays staring at these devices, have many optometrists and other health care professionals, concerned about the possible long-term effects of blue light on eye one’s health.

 

So.. What potential effects might too much exposure to blue light have on one’s eyes? 

 

  1. Blue light exposure may increase the risk of macular degeneration

Studies have shown that too much exposure to blue light can damage your light-sensitive cells in your retina.  This may cause macular degeneration later in your life, which is an eye disease causing permanent vision loss.

 

  1. Blue light exposure contributes to digital eye strain.

Blue light, being a short-wavelength ray with high energy, scatters more easily than other visible light.  It is therefore not as easily focused.  This causes unfocused visual noise, and reduces contrast, which contributes to digital eye strain.

 

Research has shown that lenses block blue light with wavelengths less than 450nm, increase contrast significantly.  Yellow-tinted lenses, or blue light-blocking antiglare coatings on your computer glasses may therefore increase comfort when you are focusing on your digital device for long periods of time.  Blue light filters for digital devices are also available.

 

But is all blue light then bad for you?  No it isn’t.  Research has also shown that this high energy visible light boosts alertness, improves memory and elevates mood.  In fact, light therapy is available for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (a type of depression that is related to season changes).  The light sources that are used for this therapy emit bright white light containing a big amount of blue light rays. 

 

Another important factor to keep in mind, is that blue light also helps to regulate healthy circadian rhythm, which is the body’s natural sleep cycle.  Too much blue light exposure at night-time, e.g. reading on your tablet at bedtime, or working/playing on your computer, can disrupt this cycle, potentially causing sleeplessness.

 

What is our conclusion about blue light?  It is not necessary to use blue-blocking filters permanently as protection over your eyes.  But if you are doing a type of job where you are working on a computer for many hours per day, or constantly using your phone or other digital devices, a blue light filter or computer glasses with a blue blocking antiglare coating is highly recommended.  It can potentially reduce eye strain and eye fatigue, improve concentration, reduce sleeplessness when focusing on digital screens late evenings, and reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration later in life.

To find out more about the blue blocking antiglare coating, or Blue Control, go to https://www.hoya.eu/en-gb/wearers/lenses/treatments/anti-reflective-coatings/blue-light-protection-p30642 .  It is also important to remember that eye fatigue can also be due to not using the correct prescription lenses anymore, and therefore an extensive eye evaluation is necessary to provide you with the optimal solution to reduce your eye fatigue. You are also welcome to contact us at Eugenie Coetzer Optometrists for your pair of personalized Blue Control computer glasses. 

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