Smart Phones, Digital Blue Light and the Effects on our Eyes
Waves of Blue Light All Day Long
We’re not turning back time, or turning away from our digital devices any time soon. Our digital devices are more ubiquitous than virtually any technology that has come before, and they are here to stay. In fact, the average American spends nearly three hours looking at their phone each day! That adds up to nearly 86 hours of staring into a tiny screen of glowing blue light every month.
Blue light is emitted from all handheld electronic devices, desktop and laptop computers, and televisions. It is the shortest and highest energy wave length of visible light, and can cause significant damage to many parts of the eye including the macula, retina, and photoreceptors.
Most of us are not really noticing any significant effects on our vision day to day, or at least we don’t think so. “Significant” effects are hard to define. Does eye strain and fatigue qualify as a “significant” effect? If it does, then the 33% of Americans that report experiencing eye strain are noticing a significant effect. On top of that:
- 22.7% report experiencing dry eyes
- 21.4% report experiencing headaches
- 22% report experiencing blurred vision
Symptoms of digital eye strain are reported by nearly 61% of people who use their digital devices and computers somewhere between that 2-3 hours/day range. Those are people just like you scrolling through their Facebook feeds, reading an ebook, and checking their email. That’s not an insignificant amount of people effected!
Children are at an especially higher risk for negative effects of blue light exposure. Children’s eyes are still developing, and they don’t yet have the protective pigments in their eyes to help filter out some of this harmful blue light. With kids spending more and more time in front of computers these days, the effects can really add up.
What is the Blue Light Actually Doing?
Digging into the actual physical effects of blue light on the eye can be a little alarming.
- Cell damage in both the inner and outer layers of photoreceptors (rods and cones), and in the retina
- Damage to the fine capillaries in retina cone photoreceptors
- Edema, or swelling of the retina
- Development of cystoid spaces (cysts) further indicating edema
- Inner blood-retinal barrier damaged
Damage from blue light from smartphones is particularly important because smartphones are often used in dim light, close to the eyes. Unlike ordinary computer vision fatigue, damage from blue light is serious, cumulative and irreversible.
Take a Break, Look Away
It’s unlikely any of us are going to put down our phones or shut off our computers for good, so what can we do to try to protect ourselves from the effects of blue light on our eyes?
Technology is advancing exponentially every day, so it’s more than likely we’ll see a technological shift or solution to the blue light issue coming soon, but until we do, there are a few things you can do to diminish your exposure and alleviate the effects.
Talk to your eye doctor about lenses that filter out blue light. These can be built right into your existing prescription.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Look away from your computer or digital device every 20 minutes for 20 seconds about 20 feet away. This helps your eyes refocus and reduce eye strain.
Positioning yourself at arm's distance away from any screen your using. We’ve been told to back up from the TV forever, and it still matters today.
Use your devices in well-lit rooms to reduce glare.
Most people who experience digital eye strain and the effects of blue light, don’t do anything about in large part because they’re not even aware it’s happening. We’re all experiencing some amount of eye strain and fatigue these days, but we don’t have to just accept it as a product of the times. Schedule an eye exam and consultation, and take steps to protect your eyes – you’re going to need them.
Blue light explained at Berlin Optical Expressions – Call Today!
 P. Geiger, et al, Blue light-induced retinal lesions, intraretinal vascular leakage and edema formation in the all-cone mouse retina, Cell Death & Disease, November, 2019.