We live in the age of technology where we spend a good portion of our day – too long of a portion – staring at screens. Most of us have heard that you shouldn’t stare at your computer, TV, phone, tablet, or other devices for long periods of time, but do you know why? The digital age has created a new hazard for your eyes – over exposure to blue light. Dr. Joseph Dolezal has been helping our community to have healthy eyes since 1981 at his practice, Innovations in EyeCare, in Centralia. He explains what the hazards of blue light are and how you can help protect your precious sight.
Blue light is part of the visible light of the electromagnetic spectrum. On the spectrum, it’s right before UV light, which is non-visible. It has a very short wavelength, thus producing one of the highest amounts of energy on the spectrum. It provides the brightness to our flat-panel display screens and is also the indirect light from the blue sky overhead, Dr. Dolezal explains.
We all know UV light is bad for you because of the effects it has on our skin. Interestingly, both UV and blue light have their purposes when it comes to eye development.
“You actually need a little ultraviolet as well as blue light for normal retinal development, but the UV is harmful physically if overexposed—as your skin can be affected,” Dr. Dolezal says. “Living in a cave would not allow for normally developed eyes. And in the Pacific Northwest, the lack of it during our cloudy winter months causes depression in some individuals.”
But like all good things, blue light should be taken in moderation. Too much blue light can have a serious effect on our health. And guess what—chances are that you are overexposed to it.
“Since it is the light that makes our tablets, smart phones, widescreen TVs and LED light bulbs so bright and colorful, we never seem to get away from it and over exposure has deleterious effects on our sleep cycles,” Dr. Dolezal says. “We are supposed to get away from this light in the evenings, allowing our brains to enter normal sleep cycles. With all of this constant exposure, we are altering the ways our body responds to the important disconnection we need from the world in order to truly rest well.”
The average American spends six to nine hours on digital devices, with many of us watching several hours of shows on devices in the evening, when our bodies should no longer be exposed to blue light. Having trouble sleeping? Feeling fatigued all the time? Your bright screen may be the culprit. It reduces melatonin production, alters sleep patterns and can reduce immune system function over time, Dr. Dolezal adds.
In addition, blue light can cause macular degeneration—the deterioration of the retina. It is the leading cause of vision loss in America and is incurable. Lesser issues include dry eye from reduction in blinking and neck and back pain, especially in bifocal wearers.
Dr. Dolezal treats all his patients like family. Because of this, he has a genuine concern for what overexposure to blue light is doing to our children as well. He says it’s a concern for their health—imagine what a disruptive sleep cycle does to a child’s growing and developing body.
Dr. Dolezal says your eye-care professional is the best person to ask about blue light, but there are a few things you do at home to help reduce the chances of overexposure. They are:
- Take a 60 second break after every 20 minutes of flat screen use.
- Avoid use of digital devices three hours before bed.
- Have kids use books over flat screen devices.
- All ages should consider blue light filtering lenses.
- Have glasses designed for computer work instead of using one pair for everything.
Innovations in EyeCare is a full-service office that provides a wide range of services from glasses and contact lenses to treatment of superficial eye injuries and infections. They perform diabetic eye examinations, provide low vision services to individuals with permanently impaired vision, and co-manage cataract and laser eye surgery care. To ensure you are getting the best care available, they have up-to-date electrodiagnostic instrumentation for retinal and optic nerve pathway evaluation and have a trained professional staff that knows about the latest in glasses and contact lens innovations to help you manage your visual concerns in a way that gives you as much control over your future as possible. This experience makes them a perfect place to go if you have concerns about blue light overexposure, or any eye-related issues.
For more information, visit the Innovations in EyeCare’s website or call 360-736-7385 to make an appointment.