How blue light is damaging your eyes
Technology is evolving faster and becoming more integrated into our lives than ever before, and while that brings a vast array of benefits, it is important to acknowledge how devices like phones, tablets and computers could actually be affecting our health. From protecting our skin to being conscious of our (phone-affected) posture, one such unexpected aspect to consider when it comes to technology is the ability for blue light from devices to damage our eyes. We caught up with Kim Bulder, Naturopath and Medical Herbalist* for Mānuka Health, to learn how the damage is occurring and how we can protect our eyes from blue light.
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What is blue light and how does it damage our eyes?
Blue light is a part of the visible light spectrum, and some exposure is essential for health. Sunlight, surprisingly, is actually the main source of exposure, and devices only produce a fraction of the blue light that reaches our eyes. However, “for many people these days, screen time is an unavoidable part of work and life,” Kim explains. As a result, the amount of time we spend in front of devices and screens, and the proximity of the light source to our eyes can be where problems arise. “Aside from the impact on our sleep and moods, our eyes are very vulnerable to the high energy blue light emitted from digital screens at close range,” Kim says.
Blue light is essential for health but too much can be harmful. While there is still much we don’t know about how blue light affects the eyes, it essentially cannot be reflected by the eye the same way other forms of light are. This means that blue light is absorbed by our eyes rather than reflected. This absorption contributes to what is known as Digital Eye Strain, which is associated with both short and long-term symptoms. This absorption of blue light can present itself in short-term symptoms such as dry and tired eyes, blurred vision and headaches. Long-term symptoms include age-related eye disorder, reduced visual performance, poor glare recovery and retinal and macular damage.
However, it’s not all bad news when it comes to blue light. While more research is necessary to determine how much natural and man-made blue light is ‘too much’ for our eyes, a few small lifestyle changes can actually make a huge difference when it comes to protecting our eyes.
How do we work to protect our eyes from future damage?
“Our eyes do have natural built-in protection to blue light from essential antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin, however the level of protection depends on how much of these essential nutrients we get in our diet,” says Kim. “With modern diets severely lacking in fresh, high-quality produce, many of us would be unknowingly lacking these key nutrients and running the risk of long-term eye damage.”
In order to increase our intake of these nutrients, Kim recommends eating a fresh, healthy and balanced diet (lots of leafy greens and brightly-coloured vegetables) and looking to include daily supplements that provide your body with nutrients that support eye protection.
There are many other steps you can take to help prevent eye strain and blue light exposure. These include practices like blinking consciously, taking screen breaks throughout the day and looking into the mid or far distance to rest the eyes. Avoiding screens two hours before bed will contribute to reduced eye strain and assist with developing more regular sleep cycles. You can also reduce the blue light setting on your screens, invest in blue-light blocking glasses (which often have a yellow tint or are anti-reflective to reduce eye strain) and purchase a blue light filter to go over your screens.
*Kim Bulder B HSc (CompMed), AdvDipHerbMed, AdvDipNat
Did you learn anything you didn’t already know about blue light? Will you be making any of these changes to help protect your eyes from blue light in future?