07 January, 2021
2020 will probably go down in the history books as the year with the most buzzwords. COVID-19 ruled of course but it was held in good company along with ‘unprecedented’, ‘pandemic’, ‘new normal’, ‘zoom’ and ‘fake news’. Equally buzz-worthy and one which may have hit your radar is blue light filtering glasses. Since this is the only buzzword from the aforementioned list that we can speak of with authority, let’s take a deep dive into what blue light is and why it’s causing such a stir.
What is blue light?
Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum – it’s light we can physically see whereas ultraviolet (UV) and infrared light are outside the visible light spectrum. Light is made up of electromagnetic particles that travel in waves. These waves range in length and strength and emit energy. The length of these waves is measured in nanometres (nm) with 1 nanometre equalling 1 billionth of a metre.
Sunlight for example, is a natural source of blue light. Artificial blue light is emitted from digital screens, electronic devices as well as LED lights. Blue light has a very short wavelength and as a result produces more energy. Studies suggest that long term exposure to blue light may damage your eyes.
How does blue light affect us?
Sunlight is the main source of blue light and is everywhere. Our bodies use blue light to regulate our natural sleep cycles otherwise known as our circadian rhythm. Our mood, level of alertness and overall wellbeing can be aided by natural blue light.
Blue light waves are the shortest, highest energy wavelengths of the visible light spectrum, which can potentially damage the internal structures of the eyes such as the retina and macula. Children are particularly susceptible to these damaging effects since the young eye is less able to filter blue light.
Blue light and ARMD
Clinical studies suggest that exposure to High Energy Visible (HEV) blue light can be a risk factor for macular degeneration. Age and lifestyle factors such as poor diet and smoking are even greater risk factors for the development of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
Digital eye strain
Blue light is believed to be responsible for digital eye strain. Flickering blue light from these devices creates glare and impacts visual clarity, contrast and sharpness. Blue light has also been implicated in migraines.
Today, we have a plethora of electronic gadgets to keep us connected with friends, family and colleagues, not to mention entertain ourselves (Netflix anyone?), but one of the by-products of this excessive use of technology is the amount of time we are spending staring at digital screens.
Sadly, it’s not just adults that are affected. Children are increasingly using digital devices to play, read and even do school work. This combination of more screen time and less “green time” (time spent outdoors in nature) can harm children’s vision and puts them at risk of developing myopia or nearsightedness.
There are certain factors when it comes to reducing the risks for children developing myopia, that are within parents’ control which includes keeping screen time to a minimum. The World Health Organization (WHO) released daily screen guidelines for young children in April 2019. They recommend infants (less than 1 year old) should not have any screen time while those aged 2-5 should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics goes on to suggest that children over the age of 5 and into teenage years, don’t need a specific time limit put in place so long as digital consumption doesn’t interfere with physical activity and sleep.
To help parents/ carers, we’ve put together our top 5 suggestions to help minimise screen time and reduce digital eye strain.
5 tips for parents
If you have concerns about digital eye strain feel free to make an appointment with your local EyeQ optometrist.
Our contact lens provider Alcon is experiencing delays fulfilling orders due to a cyber-security incident involving their freight partner, Toll Group. These delays are across their entire network of optical retailers in Australia. We apologise for an inconvenience caused and encourage you to contact your local EyeQ practice for any urgent requirements.