Your morning probably started off like any other day. You might have watched the weather report on your flatscreen television before jumping in the shower, answered an email on your tablet shortly after getting dressed or texted a friend from your smart phone while eating breakfast. Odds are, you didn’t think about the blue light you were exposed to nor how this could affect your vision in the future…
According to a collection of studies, the blue light emitted from digital devices and found in indoor lighting as well as sunlight can adversely impact our visual cells. Cumulative exposure can cause permanent damage as well as increase the risk and severity of developing age-related eye health issues.
In fact, some researchers worry the damage caused to retinas will reach epidemic proportions.
“This problem is going to get worse, because humans are living longer and children are using electronic devices from a young age, particularly for schoolwork, instead of paper, “ Dr. Celia Sanchez Ramos, an investigator at Madrid’s Compultense University said. “Eyes are not designed to look directly at light – they are designed to see with light.”
We’re naturally armed with “internal sunglasses”, made up of macular pigment. This pigment, which is comprised of two nutrients called zeaxanthin and lutein is found in the center of the macula (fovea). These “sunglasses” protect the rods and cones needed for central as well as peripheral vision.
However, if this macular pigment isn’t dense and thick, it will allow more blue light to damage these rods and cones, negatively affecting not just how you see but what you see.
How can you protect your eyes from blue light? Here’s four quick tips:
1. Befriend zeaxanthin
Since zeaxanthin and lutein aren’t produced by the body, they must be ingested in order to ensure optimal macular pigment density. Zeaxanthin can be found in foods like corn, wolf berries and peppers. Lutein is found in foods like spinach and kale.
Since the average American diet is scarce in zeaxanthin, taking a vitamin with these nutrients is key.
2. Wear sunglasses
As sunlight is made up of blue light, always wear sunglasses when outdoors. When selecting a pair of glasses, choose brown, amber, or copper colored lenses—they not only reduce glare but filter out blue light.
When indoors, especially while looking at a smart phone, tablet, computer or television screen, wear glasses with blue-blocking lenses. They can be highly effective in reducing blue light exposure.
3. Take a break
Do you spend your days in front of a computer? You’ll need to take a break about every 30 minutes (ideally) from your screen. During these breaks, look off into the distance or close your eyes for a few seconds in order to rest them.
Set your computer’s screen as well as the screens of your other electronic devices to auto brightness. Also enlarge fonts to lessen the strain on your eyes. When using your smart phone or tablet, try to keep the device at arm’s length.
4. Shun the screens before bed.
Avoid looking at computer, tablet, smart phone or LED television screens two to three hours before bedtime. Blue light can inhibit your body from producing melatonin. So, not only can this act stave off blue light damage and preserve your vision, it can also help you sleep better.