Mr Glass explains how Blue Light affects us...
Can we stop our eyes ageing (or at least slow it down)?
Can light actually do our eyes harm? In particular, can blue light be dangerous for the eyes, is there a link between too much blue light & accelerated ageing of the eye? We all know how important it is to protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays – but what about the harmful effects of blue-violet (visible) light rays? These are questions we are being asked more & more frequently in the eye examination room.
Firstly what do we mean by “Blue Light”?
Blue light is a colour in the visible spectrum with a very short wavelength which contains a relatively higher amount of energy. Blue light is everywhere – sources include the sun and modern energy efficient light bulbs, but also electronic screens (computers, tablets, TVs & smart phones).
Natural (outdoor) blue light helps regulate your natural sleep & wake cycles, helps boost alertness & elevates moods. This good blue light is of a longer wavelength & appears more turquoise. Shorter wavelength blue light appears more violet & carries more energy which can create more damage.
ARMD (age related macula degeneration)
ARMD is the leading cause of blindness in the over 60s. It has traditionally been thought of as ‘ageing of the eye’ that was to a degree, inevitable. However we are now starting to unravel the causes and how we should be able to prolong the lifespan of our eyes.
There is growing medical evidence that shorter wavelength blue-violet light exposure may cause permanent eye damage via destruction of the cells in the central retina (the macula) – Age Related Macula Degeneration. The retina is the thin tissue at the back of the eye that detects light. But the retina can be harmed by high-energy visible radiation, especially blue-violet light, which penetrates through the protective macula pigments. A low density of this protective pigment is thought to highlight a risk of progressing to ARMD, by allowing more light damage to the retina.
Who needs protection from blue light & how can we do it?
Simply put – we all do. Whether we are outdoors all day or spend hours staring at a screen, we are all being exposed to blue light in unprecedented doses.
But our eyes natural filters may not be sufficient to protect against the increased blue light exposure we are getting today, from the increased & widespread use from LED screens, which emit more blue light. The use of protective eyewear can play an important role in shielding our eyes against the damaging effects of blue light. (See our News Article for how we can help.)
For indoors, in low/artificial lighting, or at night, protective spectacle lenses with a special coating designed to reflect away damaging blue light are now available. These special coatings reduce the amount of blue light reaching the retina and also increase contrast, reduce screen flicker and subsequently eye fatigue.
For outdoors - tinted lenses - sunglasses are perfect at absorbing high energy blue light.
What else can we do?
Particularly when concerned with ARMD – protection is key. Protection by limiting the amount of blue light entering the eye as discussed above. But protection can also happen from within, by boosting the natural defense pigments found at the macula. These pigments cannot be created by the eye, so must come from our diet, particularly in certain foods.
Natural foods – vegetables & fruits – typically those of a strong colour and dark green vegetables, are often rich in these protective pigments. Once digested they then form a protective layer in front of the retina, shielding the eye from the most harmful blue-violet wavelengths.
Research developments are geared around increasing the density of these protective pigments through:
Environmental protection (wearing the correct lenses & glasses)
The research is compelling but the medical profession is being slow to catch up on to the evidence & people’s concerns. The time to protect the eyes is BEFORE any damage becomes established. Indeed protection should start before we reach our teens!
Screening for AMD risk
At Glass & Glass we have invested in macula pigment screeners that allow us to determine whether someone is at risk of progressing to Aged-Related Macula Degeneration. By looking at all your risk factors & the health of the retina, we can make informed decisions on how best to protect your eyes for the future.
Please call us to book a comprehensive eye examination including a MPOD screening and to discuss the best way to protect our eyes for the future.