From the sunshine you enjoy on a beautiful day, to the digital devices we’ve come to depend upon – there’s no escaping blue light exposure.
Blue light might not affect your patient’s vision quality this instant, but studies are revealing the cumulative effects of blue light can negatively shape the quality of vision years decades later. Damage from blue light emitted from LED televisions, smart phones, or computers can accumulate, increasing the risk and severity of developing Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
Since light from these devices are short-wavelength enriched, this blue light has a greater concentration of high energy compared to natural light. Blue light damages photoreceptors: the rods and cones at the back of the eye within the retina.
Blue light exposure over time contributes to an increased risk of ‘free-radical’ superoxide destruction, according to Stuart Richer, OD, FAAO, PhD. Blue light induced superoxide is toxic, eventually causing damage to the photoreceptor cells, and ultimately leading to cell death. Since rods and cones aren’t regenerated, vision problems like AMD can occur over time.
“Modifying environmental factors is currently the only approach to reduce genetic risk of AMD,” said Richer, who serves as Director of Ocular Preventative Medicine at Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois.
In other words, there is help and nutritional blue light protection can be of big benefit to your patients.
Zeaxanthin and lutein, two carotenoids found within the eye, have been found to benefit by virtue of protecting and enhancing vision. These dietary carotenoids create macular pigment, which is found in the retina, at a ratio 2:1.
One way to protect photoreceptors within the eye from blue light is to increase the density of macular pigment. The macular pigment acts as a pair of internal sunglasses, shielding photoreceptors from blue light. If Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD) is at suboptimal levels, this pigment can’t protect the photoreceptors from damage and oxidation.
“The fovea is the most critical retinal real estate of the macular and entire retina,” said Dr. Richer. “Higher foveal macular pigment density is crucial.”
Another way Eye Care Professionals can help patients is to offer a Macular Pigment Optical Density Screening. Measuring the macular pigment can serve as a biomarker for patients to assess whether supplementation is necessary. Since zeaxanthin and lutein aren’t produced by the body, they must be ingested in order to ensure optimal macular pigment density.
As the average American diet is scarce in zeaxanthin, supplementing this antioxidant is key. Macular health supplements like EyePromise’s Restore® and Zeaxanthin+Lutein are guaranteed to help patients increase their MPOD levels within six months.
In spite of the consequences, researchers are discovering blue light is here to stay. In fact, LED is expected to take 90 percent of the lighting market in the next 10 years because of its’ superior energy efficiency.
Benchmarking patients’ MPOD scores, educating patients of all ages about the dangers of blue light, and offering nutritional counseling along with effective dietary carotenoid supplementation can help protect your patients’ retinal eye health. In doing so, your patients can enjoy their digital devices now and in the years to come.