At a Glimpse

Educational Article

Blue Light

Light is made up of electromagnetic particles that travel in waves that emit energy and range in length and strength. Rays on the red end have less energy and longer wavelengths, while rays on the blue end have shorter wavelengths and more energy. The human eye is sensitive to only visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum, seen in the colors violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. Blue light has a very short wavelength, which produces a higher amount of energy.

With sufficient exposure, almost all portions of the electromagnetic spectrum can cause damage to the eyes. Overexposure to sunlight has always been bad for the eyes, but what about artificial light, such as from tablets and televisions? Research shows in this age of technology and smart phones that excess exposure to blue light can cause serious long-term damage to the eyes or worsen vision problems.

Too much exposure to blue light can affect vision, prematurely age the eyes, lead to digital eyestrain or cause retina damage. Digital eyestrain causes sore or irritated eyes and difficulty focusing. Retina damage over time can cause various vision problems, such as macular degeneration. But, with the popularity and growth of technology, long-term exposure to blue light is a cause for concern because of the close proximity we see these lights and the length of time spent looking at them. Examples of artificial blue light include:

  • Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs
  • Light-emitting diodes (LED) light
  • Flat screen LED TVs
  • Computer monitors
  • Smart phones
  • Tablet screens

While long-term exposure to blue light can cause damage, exposure to blue light is actually needed for good health. Blue light helps boost alertness, memory and cognitive function, as well as regulates the circadian rhythm. Blue light exposure during the daytime helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm but too much exposure to blue light at night disturbs the sleep cycle, leading the sleeping problems and daytime tiredness. A balance is needed to maintain good health.

To help avoid over exposure to blue light:

  • Decrease screen time or take frequent breaks to rest your eyes
  • Purchase a protective screen filter for your smart phone, tablet or computer screen to decrease the amount of blue light that reaches the retina
  • Wear specialty glasses during exposure to blue light, such as:
    • Computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses to ease digital eyestrain
    • Anti-reflective lenses to reduce glare and block blue light from both the sun and digital devices
    • Intraocular lenses to naturally protect the eye from almost all ultraviolet and blue light

If you are experiencing eye strain from over exposure to blue light, or want to discuss your overall eye health and ways to protect your eyes, call (252) 756-6031 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fishel.

American Optometric Association

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