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macular degeneration

There’s a good chance that you spend quite a bit of time each day in front of your computer, tablet or phone  These devices have made our lives better and more fun.  But did you know that exposure to the type of light emitted from these devices, as well as other forms of artificial light, increases your risk of developing macular degeneration?

Electronic devices and artificial lights such as CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) emit a type of ultra-violet light (UV) called Blue Light.  And according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) Blue Light is very dangerous to your eyes and increases the risk of Macular Degeneration.

While there are other types of UV light, they don’t pose the significant threat to eye health that Blue Light does.  Blue Light, which is a type of UV light that is part of the invisible spectrum of light between 320-400nm, is the most damaging type of UV light that we are exposed to each day.  UVC is largely germicidal in nature and is filtered by the ozone layer.  And UVB,which is responsible for the development of skin cancers, can be effectively screened by protective clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses.  But Blue Light is absorbed directly in the eye, and it is not automatically screened by protective eyewear like sunglasses.  In fact, you will need eyewear that is specifically designed to screen out Blue Light.

Researchers have discovered that Blue Light is the cause of major retinal damage, and can lead directly to macular degeneration.  According to the Schepens Eye Institute, Blue Light directly penetrates the macular pigment of the eye, causing retina damage. The Schepens Eye Institute reports that “the blue rays of the spectrum seem to accelerate AMD (Adult Macular Degeneration) more than other rays of the spectrum.” Unfortunately, once even minimal retinal damage has occurred, Blue Light is even more toxic.  The retinal damage actually allows even more Blue Light to enter the eye, compounding damage.

Whose Eyes Need Protection From Toxic Blue Light?

Basically, everyone needs protection from Blue Light.  If you work under CFL lighting, such as in an office, if you use CFL bulbs in your home, or if you work using a computer, you are at high risk of Blue Light exposure.  Almost everyone meets this criteria.

With the increased use of CFLs in the home and the increased use of iPads, Smartphones and computers, exposure to Blue Light has risen significantly in recent years.  Adult eyes are at an increased risk simply from the aging process.  Aging lessens the amount of melanin in the eyes.  Melanin is the natural substance that determines hair and skin color, but it is also responsible for the protection of skin and eyes from the damaging rays of light and sun.  But as we age, our natural melanin production lessens, leaving us more susceptible to the effects of all UV light, including Blue Light.

Children, who naturally produce more melanin, are less susceptible to macular degeneration.  But questions have been raised regarding the impact of Blue Light on children.  Blue Light exposure in children has already been linked to increases in hyperactivity, insomnia and migraines.  It has yet to be determined how increased Blue Light exposure to children will impact vision in coming years.  There have been no studies to date to examine the possibility of increased risk of retinal damage to children after a lifetime of computer, iPad and phone use. Not to mention that the mandatory replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs in the home was just put into full effect on January 1, 2014, leading to new questions regarding overall exposure to Blue Light for all individuals, not just children.

Damage to the retina from Blue Light is the biggest hazard our eyes face. And since the degree of damage is based solely on wavelength, power level and exposure time, solutions to combat Blue Light damage are needed immediately.

How Do I Protect My Eyes From Blue Light?

There are ways to address potential retinal damage caused by Blue Light.  First, limit time in front of computers, SmartPhones and tablets, or use protective device covers like the SleepShield Blue Blocking Screen Protectors for iPad, iPhone & MacBook Pro laptops.

Next, decrease time spent exposed to CFL lighting, such as office lighting, if possible.  And in the home environment, switch from CFL bulbs to LED lights, which like incandescent bulbs, produce less Blue Light.  Always sit at least 5 feet away from CFL bulbs if possible.  Studies have shown that Blue Light drops off after about 5 feet, decreasing exposure.

You mighty also consider switching to biologically corrected lights, such as the Definity Digital LED GoodNight Sleep Light, which produce no Blue Light.  As an added plus, these lights have been shown to improve sleep patterns in adults and children with insomnia.

When outdoors, always wear protective eyewear, preferably sunglasses or lenses that contain a Blue Light filter.  Don’t rely on dark lenses to filter Blue Light.  While brown, amber and yellow lenses will offer more protection, filtering of Blue Light has little to do with the color of the lens.  Ask your optometrist or Ophthalmologist to recommend the appropriate lenses for your particular needs.  There are even clear lenses available, such as Transitions, that are constructed to filter harmful Blue Light.

Protecting your eyes from the harmful effects of Blue Light is one of the best ways to preserve your vision as you age.

Photo by krossbow. Used under Creative Commons 2.0 license

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Sebrina Smith

Sebrina Zerkus Smith is a Southern Gal that has been scratching the writer’s itch for nearly 30 years. Her career began in Washington, D.C., in 1987, fresh out of collage and full of ideals. While plying her trade by day on congressional reps and senators, at night she burned the candle writing features for local newspapers and national magazines. She quickly realized that her southern upbringing gave her a unique and humorous voice that resonated with her readers. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles where she pursued her dream of becoming a novelist and screenwriter. She paid her bills by working as a freelance writer for major marketing projects from studios such as CBS, NBC and Disney. Realizing that the future of writing lay with the internet, she was bitten by the blogging bug back in the 90’s, back before it was even called “blogging.” Then it was still just writing and trying to make a living. Through those early blogging years, Sebrina found passion and purpose. Over the past 10 years she has written articles for clients such as LightCues.com, MatterMore.com, Greenopolis, MacAddict, Yahoo, CNN and more. Today, Sebrina writes about a variety of topics including the Southern Experience, sustainability, clean water, food, gardening, sleep and her obsession with pugs. She is a regular paid contributor to WildOats.com as well as other entities. She now lives in Houston with her husband Jeff and their pug Newton. She hopes one day to complete her opus, Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed.