After a long, dark winter, many of us can’t wait for the long, light filled days with blue skies and lots of sunshine. But did you know that the very thing that causes the sky to appear blue…is also the same thing that can damage your eyes?
Blue light, also known as high energy visible (HEV) light is a type of light that is found everywhere, with sunlight being its main source. But blue light can also be found indoors, created from man-made sources including fluorescent and LED lighting, flat-screen televisions and of course, the display screens of computers, laptops, smartphones and all the other digital devices that we have come to love. The potential for long-term damage to our eyes from both the frequent use of these devices and proximity to our eyes has doctors concerned.
The eye is a very sophisticated piece of equipment. The cornea and lens are capable of blocking most of the UV rays from reaching the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images are perceived. In fact, less than 1% of UV radiation reaches the retina. Unlike UV rays though, 100% of all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina. This can increase your risk for macular degeneration later in life.
It is important to note that not all blue light is harmful and some is even necessary for alertness, a positive mood, cognitive function and memory. Blue light is also responsible for regulating the circadian rhythm — our body’s sleep and wake cycle. Exposure to blue light during the day helps us maintain an accurate circadian rhythm. When we see blue light it tells our brain that it’s time to be awake, and a lack of blue lights signals the brain that it’s time to sleep. But if we spend our evenings in front of our laptop, flat screen TV or smartphone, all of which emit blue light we can disrupt this cycle, potentially leading to sleepless nights and daytime naps.
So what can we do? Well we can’t turn off the sun, nor can we completely avoid our man-made, blue light emitting devices. We can, however, mitigate the potential damage by learning how to regulate the amount of blue light to which our eyes are exposed and how best to support our eyesight.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, experts recommend disconnecting from all electronic devices 2 hours before your normal bedtime and substitute your electronic devices with a bath, yoga, a leisurely walk or a good paper book. (In 2014, a study was published in PNAS (full text) that compares the effects of reading an iPad before bed, versus a regular paper book.)
If you can’t bear the thought of being apart from your smartphone or laptop, then look into downloading an app called f.lux or see if your device has a setting for nightmode (Android) or Apple’s Night Shift that removes a significant amount of the blue light. Blue light filters are available for smartphones, tablets, and computer screens and prevent significant amounts of blue light from reaching your eyes without affecting the visibility of the display.
One other way you can support and protect your vision is by ensuring your eyes have the nutrients they need. The eye contains protective antioxidants— lutein and zeaxanthin are both critical. These two dietary carotenoids are part of the macular pigment in the retina. This macular pigment acts to reduce blue light–induced free radical damage in the eye.
Although other ocular antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and minerals such as zinc and copper, play important roles in protecting the eye from potential blue light–induced damage, none of them are capable of absorbing blue light and thus preventing it from reaching the photosensitive cells. The human body does not make lutein and zeaxanthin, so these nutrients must be obtained from the diet. Unfortunately, most of us don’t consume enough of the foods that contain these important molecules.
Total Vision Care combines lutein and zeaxanthin in an antioxidant-rich formula with improved absorption from OST. It helps to protect against free radical damage and Digital Eye Strain (DES) to reduce glare, support visual acuity and reduce the risk of AMD and cataracts.
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