It’s now the year 2020, and most of us spend several of our waking hours staring at a digital screen. This happens in many ways, whether it's the computer at work, scrolling through apps on our cell phone, playing a video game, or just relaxing and watching TV. It is estimated that the average American spends at least six hours looking at digital screens each day. Digital screen technology has changed drastically over the years, and many of today's electronic devices use LED back-light technology to help enhance screen brightness and clarity. While this is great for getting a better image, the downside of LED light is that it emits blue light waves. As a society, we are gradually being exposed to more and more sources of blue light and for longer periods of time.
To help you understand the detrimental effects of blue light, we’ll first talk about light in general. Light is made up of electromagnetic particles that travel in waves. These waves emit energy and vary in length and strength. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the energy. Every wavelength is represented by a different color and together they make up the visible light spectrum. While there are other forms of light such as ultraviolet light and radio waves, our eyes can only detect the visible light portion of the spectrum. Blue light has a very short wavelength so it produces a higher amount of energy. There is overwhelming evidence that suggests that over time, exposure to the blue end of the light spectrum could cause damage to your eyes.
Blue light is literally everywhere. When outside, light from the sun travels through the atmosphere. The shorter, high energy blue wavelengths collide with the air molecules causing blue light to scatter everywhere. This is what makes the sky look blue. As we discussed earlier, all digital devices emit a form of high energy blue light. These blue wavelengths flicker easier, creating glare that can reduce visual contrast and affect sharpness and clarity. This flickering is the reason for eyestrain, headaches, physical and mental fatigue caused by many hours sitting in front of a computer screen or other electronic device.
Digital eye strain is the term used to describe the conditions resulting from the use of electronic devices. Digital eye strain often causes the feeling of fatigue in and around your eyes and can affect learning and decrease work productivity. The most prevalent symptoms of digital eye strain include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry and irritated eyes, headaches, neck and back pain.
Digital eye strain does not just affect adults. Children are also at risk for eyestrain due to their growing use of digital devices. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children and teenagers spend more than 7 hours a day consuming electronic media. Parents are encouraged to supervise and limit the amount of screen time their children are permitted. Our recommendations come from the American Academy of Pediatric guidelines:
For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18-24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
For children ages 2-5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
As far as how high energy blue light can physically harm your eyes, blue light has been identified as the most dangerous light for the retina. There is evidence that blue light exposure may cause permanent eye damage in the form of destruction of the cells in the center of the retina, commonly known as macular degeneration. While there is still much to learn about the long-term effects of blue light, the time is now to protect your eyes from it.
At our clinic, we recommend Kodak Total Blue lenses. Kodak Total Blue lenses offer your eyes 100% protection from UV rays and filters harmful blue light, decreasing the risk associated with long-term exposure to UV and high energy blue light rays. While filtering out the harmful blue light, Kodak Total Blue lenses allow low energy blue light– which is essential for true color perception and essential sleep cycle rhythms– to pass through to the eye.
In conclusion, everyone needs to take precautions against the effects of blue light. Whether we work in an office or play in the sun, spend hours staring at a computer screen or texting on our cell phones, we are all being exposed to blue light.
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