Blue light is a short wavelength (400-500 nanometers) of visible light that emits higher energy. Digital screens (TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets) are the most common sources of a person’s blue light exposure, aside from the sun.
Blue light scatters more easily than other visible light, making it difficult for the eyes to focus. This reduces contrast and can contribute to digital eye strain. This high-energy visible light penetrates the eyes and can cause macular degeneration and cataracts. Sleep also can be affected due to the light suppressing the natural release of melatonin (a hormone that signals the brain it’s time to sleep), causing sleepless nights and fatigue during the day.
Studies have shown more than 87 percent of Americans report using digital devices more than two hours a day. This use causes eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, blurry vision, and neck and shoulder pain. Using any digital device one to two hours before going to sleep has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns, leading individuals to not attain a sound night’s rest.
More than 70 percent of parents say their children spend more than two hours a day on these same digital devices. These days, schools use computers and often provide them to the students. Of these schools, more than 55 percent report that, after prolonged use, students have a reduced attention span, poor behavior and irritability. Eye strain and headaches also are reported by parents as symptoms their children experience.
To reduce harmful blue light exposure, there are now lenses available with a coating that filters the light, therefore reducing the negative effects. Not only do these lenses help with digital eye fatigue and help maintain normal sleep patterns, they also help protect against damage to the retina and lens. Glasses with this coating can be made with or without a prescription, and can be worn over contact lenses.
This is especially important for children, since earlier damage can lead to greater problems as they age. Newer computers and smartphones now have a blue light shield application which allows the user to lessen the amount of blue light used to display an image.
When it comes to using computers and other digital devices, be sure to talk to your optometrist regarding the best vision correction and lens features for you and your children. And don’t forget to limit screen time, especially before bed. Do everything you can to protect your eyes from blue light.
By Dr. Jennifer Dattolo, contributing writer and optometrist at Eyes on Towne Lake.