The internet is an amazing resource, but it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to separate fact from fiction. The effects of blue light is a particularly misunderstood topic.
Ophthalmologist Maher Fanous, MD, at North Florida Eye Center wants to clear up the confusion. Here’s what he wants you to know about blue light, where it comes from, how it affects your eyes, and what you should do about it.
To explain blue light, we need to start with a science lesson you may remember from high school. Blue light, part of the visible light spectrum, is the shortest wavelength of light and emits the highest amount of energy. It's everywhere. The sun, which is the primary source, emits blue light, as do many artificial sources like digital screens (computers, smartphones, and televisions), certain types of indoor lighting, and compact fluorescent bulbs.
Blue light isn't inherently bad. In fact, it plays a crucial role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle, mood, and cognitive performance. However, overexposure to blue light, especially from artificial sources, can cause problems.
Unlike other types of light, blue light has a higher frequency, which means it flickers more and can cause glare. Even if you can’t detect the flickering, it contributes to eye strain, headaches, physical and mental fatigue, and disruptions to your sleep cycle.
The science behind these effects lies in how your eyes process light. Your eyes are pretty efficient at blocking UV rays from reaching the retina at the back of your eyes, but they're not very good at blocking blue light. Prolonged exposure to blue light can damage the light-sensitive cells in your retina, leading to symptoms like blurred vision, difficulty focusing, dry and irritated red eyes, and even long-term issues like age-related macular degeneration.
Fortunately, there are several ways to protect your eyes from excessive blue light exposure.
Most digital devices have settings to reduce blue light emissions. Use these features, especially during the evening hours.
Glasses with lenses designed to block blue light can be helpful, especially if you spend a lot of time in front of screens.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a break from the intense focus on screens.
These can be applied to the screens of digital devices to reduce blue light emission.
A simple eye exam helps Dr. Fanous detect blue-light-related problems so he can treat them before they progress. He may recommend blue-light-blocking eyeglasses or sunglasses, prescribe drops to ease discomfort, or develop a treatment plan for other complications.
Find out if blue light has affected your eyes and get an expert’s view on the best way to protect your peepers. Request an appointment online or call North Florida Eye Center in Gainesville or Chiefland, Florida.