LED screens are ingrained in our society. My nieces learned to use an iPhone and iPad before they could walk. Smartphones, tablets, computer monitors, touch-screens; They are everywhere and used by almost everyone. While there's no denying their importance and benefits, the question that we’re still trying to answer is what are they doing to our eyes?
Recent research shows higher than normal percentages of blue-violet wavelengths being emitted from these devices. The blue-violet spectrum is in the visible light spectrum adjacent to the UV light portion of the spectrum (see figure below).
UV light and its detrimental effects are well known and well documented. UV light is made of shorter wavelengths that the visible light our eyes can process and shorter wavelengths carry higher energy. This high energy form of light can damage our cells and the DNA within, allowing UV light to damage our skin and potentially cause cancer.
While there is no evidence that blue-violet light causes cancer, recent studies have shown that it does cause damage to retinal cells. With this data it is theorized that higher quantities of blue-violet light could raise ones chances of developing retinal diseases including macular degeneration.
Our eyes have natural defenses that keep UV light from reaching the retina, but blue-violet light is in the visible spectrum and is therefore allowed to pass through to the retinal unchecked. The higher percentages of this high-energy light given off my LED devices may be doing more harm than we know. Pediatricians are already warning parents to not allow their babies to use tablets and smart phones in order to protect them from the harmful effects on the retina.
If you move a little further up the spectrum from UV, you get to the blue-turquoise light that our brain uses to regulate our sleep/wake cycle. This light is also given off in higher percentages from LED devices and this can lead to poor sleep patterns and difficulty falling asleep.
Luckily, there are ways to protect your eyes and properly regulate the blue violet and blue turquoise light that reaches your retina. New coatings placed on prescription glasses can block percentages of blue-violet light from reaching the eye, allowing only the natural amount through for proper color perception. Two such coatings, Crizal Prevencia and Hoya Recharge are already available at many eye doctors offices. These coating serve many purposes including glare reduction, scratch protection, UV protection, smudge reduction and, most importantly, blue-violet light filtration.
What if you don’t already wear glasses? With all of the computer and tablet use being seen today in the workplace, our focusing systems are more stressed than ever and this results in eye fatigue, headache and worse. New anti-fatigue lenses are gaining popularity for people who don’t typically need an eyeglass prescription to see at any distance. These lenses aid your focusing system and take stress off of the eye while working and still allow clear distance vision for driving and other activities. The blue-violet coatings can then be applied to these lenses to offer protection to go along with the anti-fatigue properties. These anti-fatigue lenses with the anti-blue violet coatings are also great to use over contact lenses, or can be made with your prescription if you have near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism.
Call Kirkwood Eye Associates today to see what option would work best for you, even if you're seeing well and don’t need glasses or contact lenses.
Andrew Biondo, O.D., is the Primary Medical Director at Kirkwood Eye Associates in Kirkwood, MO. Serving the greater St. Louis area, Dr. Biondo has 8 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator & consultant to the specialty contact lens industry. His special interests include contact lenses, dry eye disease, glaucoma, macular degeneration, laser eye surgery & preventive vision care.