A Palmerston North optometrist is warning that recent studies show blue light emitted from smartphones, tablets, and computers could be putting users at risk of early onset Macular Degeneration.
Harmful ‘blue-violet’ light is emitted from the LED screens of devices such as smartphones and tablets, and close proximity to the light makes the risk of damage worse, as well as contributing to eye fatigue.
Local optometrist Brian Naylor, of Visique Naylor Palmer, says blue light damage is of growing concern as people spend greater periods of time every day on digital devices while working and studying, and children are exposed at an early age to screens.
“Recent figures show that a typical multiscreen user in New Zealand are clocking up just under seven hours of screen time daily, which includes laptops, TV and smartphones,” says Naylor.
“All of these emit significant amounts of blue-violet light, which is the highest energy wavelength of visible light, and because of that can penetrate through the eyes’ natural filters, all the way to the back of the eye.”
The effects of blue light are believed to be cumulative, and computers are the worst culprits, closely followed by tablets and smartphones. “Over-exposure to blue light can cause headaches, dry eyes, and difficulty sleeping in the short-term, and there are potential longer-term effects that we are also worried about,” explains Naylor.
“In particular, blue-violet light is a proven risk factor of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), along with genetic factors, smoking and diet. Currently, AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment in the Western world, and it could be getting worse due to these devices.”
Naylor says for those who spend long periods of time on computers, tablets and smartphones, thinking about protection from damaging levels of blue light is important for eye health and general comfort.
“If you wear glasses, there are lenses specially designed to help filter blue light. They let in the good blue-turquoise light that helps regulate your sleep cycle and keeps your pupillary reflex healthy, but keep out virtually all UV and blue-violet light.”
For those without prescription glasses, it’s becoming increasingly common overseas for people who have blue light exposure for hours every day to wear blue-light blocking clear lenses in order to reduce eye fatigue and protect them from damage.
It’s also essential to think about protecting children’s eyes, which are less able to filter out dangerous blue and UV light than adults. “Their crystalline lens is more transparent, which offers less protection,” explains Naylor.
“Given they are estimated to spend more than three hours a day in front of TVs, tablets and computers, ensuring their eyes do not get fatigued or are damaged long-term is getting increasingly important.”
Naylor also recommends reducing time spent on devices wherever possible. “Especially at night, it’s important to give your eyes a rest from screens so the blue light doesn’t interrupt your sleep patterns and you get a healthy, restorative rest.”