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Posted on 12-19-2016

Dangers of Blue Light Emitting Digital Devices

The eye care field as a whole has done a tremendous job educating the public about the dangers of UV light, but we have failed miserably in educating the public regarding the dangers of short wavelength blue light.  Part of that is we didn't fully appreciate its affects ourselves until recently and part is we didn't have an adequate answer of how to protect our eyes from it...until now.  

If I were to ask you which causes more damage to the eye, UV light or short wavelength blue light, how would you respond?  Chances are, you will respond 'UV light'.  UV light can cause certain cancers in tissues surrounding the eye.  It is responsible for growths on the whites of the eye that can progress onto the cornea.  It can also cause damage to the corneal tissue.  It is also a significant contributor to the onset of cataracts.  The reality, however, is that short wavelength blue light actually impacts our daily performance and causes more lasting damage to vision than UV light.  Why?  Because the majority of UV light only penetrates within the eye to the level of the internal crystalline lens resulting in cataract progression.  Cataracts are not good because they result in loss of clarity of vision over time ultimately requiring cataract surgery.  However, once cataract surgery is complete, which takes only about 10 minutes per eye, vision is clear again.  

Consider how deep short wavelength blue light penetrates.  It continues beyond the crystalline lens all the way to the retina.  It contributes to glare, eye strain and fatigue because it is defocused in front of the retina relative to the other wavelengths of light.  (Think about how much more annoying the blue headlights are at night from oncoming traffic than other headlights.)  More significantly, short wavelength blue light damages the macula resulting in macular degeneration or AMD.  This disease of the eye will take away your central vision which is responsible for your detail vision - vision needed forseeing your loved ones faces, reading books, texting on your smartphone, identifying signs while driving and seeing detail in the scenery around you.  This is the most common cause of blindness in the U.S. today in people over the age of 50.  

Sunlight is still a major contributor of short wavelength blue light, but consider the relatively recent mass use of computers, hand held tablets, and smartphones especially among the children. (When is the last time your child was given a text book to study instead of being asked to complete homework online?  Who has not had a child spend hours on the tablet or send text messages nonstop on their smartphone?)  Children are being subject to greater amounts of short wavelength blue light than ever before.  The concern is an even greater number of people having macular degeneration and being diagnosed with it at an earlier age.  

Currently, macular degeneration is not reversible although retinal specialists are having some success of slowing the process down and in some cases improving vision by a few lines of acuity with repeated injections into the eye.  Ultimately, the best treatment is prevention.  

Who is most at risk for damage from blue light?  Children under age 18, anybody using a digital device more than three hours a day, those who are at high risk for or currently have macular degeneration and patients who have had cataract surgery are most at risk.  Will cell phones, computers and hand held digital devices go away?  No.  They offer too much convenience and enjoyment, but there are lenses that can help filter out the short wavelength blue light.  BluTech lenses are lenses that filter out the most harmful blue light while allowing the blue light responsible for the sleep-wake cycle to pass through.  By wearing these lenses when using your digital devices and requiring your children to do so also, even though they may not need prescription glasses to see, you will protect your eyes and the eyes of your children from long term damage.  If you are interested in these lenses or want more information about them, contact my office.

-Dr. Joseph Fife
Paradise Canyon Eye Care

P.S.  I've attached a few videos for you to watch to learn more about BluTech lenses.

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