How patients can protect their eyes against blue light

How patients can protect their eyes against blue lightBlue light has been a hot topic in the eye industry for a number of years now, and each year we understand more about how it affects eye health. Exposure to damaging blue light wavelengths is thought to be responsible for everything from disrupted sleep patterns to retina damage.

Blue light has very short wavelengths, and produces a higher amount of energy, which can cause more damage to the eye. We use digital devices more and more with each year, and are exposed to more LED lighting and compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs) – all emit high levels of blue light. Blue light damages the back of the eye, causing conditions like AMD and cataracts.

What can we do to decrease blue light exposure?

It would be very difficult for most people to do their jobs or live in their homes without coming in to contact with blue light, sadly. But there are habits and changes patients can make to limit their exposure, and rest their eyes through the day.

  • Practice the 20/20/20 rule – as mentioned in our recent blue light infographic, the 20/20/20 rule helps eyes to ‘reset’ if screens are used for long periods of time. IT is recommended that anyone using a screen, in an office for example, should look 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. This can help to relax the eye and prevent digital eyestrain.
  • Limit use of smartphones at night – apart from damage to eyes, research shows that blue light can suppress melatonin production and disrupt sleep patterns. Advise patients to limit their phone use after 8pm and not to use their phone in bed.
  • Protect MPOD with lutein and zeaxanthin supplements – Low macular pigment optical density (MPOD) allows blue light to penetrate deep into the eye, making people more at risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. MPOD can be increased or maintained with lutein and zeaxanthin, found in green leafy vegetables. These two nutrients are found in green leafy vegetables, but a supplement is recommended – 10mg of lutein and 2mg of zeaxanthin a day. Read the research here.

AMD and modifiable risk factors

Blue light is a concern because it results in retina damage, leading to eye diseases. As well as practicing good habits in terms of sun exposure and use of devices, patients should consider risk factors.

Non-modifiable risk factors are important to identify, such as family history but those patients can change are where action can be taken. Patients can protect against modifiable risk factors such as:

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • High body mass index / obesity

All of these factors can damage the eye and decrease MPOD, putting patients at-risk of eye disease. These modifiable risk factors can also exacerbate the effect of genetic and age related eye conditions.

The future?

We rely upon devices to do everything in our daily lives – to work, to relax and to communicate, so quitting them is not an option. It has been rumoured that Apple are developing a yellow-tinted screen to help protect eyes, although evidence that this does prevent damage is yet to be seen. Manufacturers of screens and lighting will need to find ways of blocking or reducing the amount of blue light they emit if we are to continue using them all day.

We understand more each year about AMD and other eye conditions in relation to blue light. The challenge of the eye industry is to understand how to improve MPOD and prevent AMD in a top-heavy ageing population.

For now we recommend educating patients about how they can protect their eyes, as well as encouraging them to have regular eye examinations to screen for AMD.

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