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9 Things You Really Need To Know About Blue Light

Blue light is all around us, and yet it may also have a harmful long-term effect on vision. Here are nine important things to know about this potentially dangerous form of light.

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1. Blue Light Is Unavoidable

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If you remember playing with a prism in elementary school, you know that blue light is part of sunlight. Even indoor lighting (both LED and florescent) includes a lot of blue light. Blue light is pretty much everywhere, but you can still minimize the impact of the worst forms of exposure. Staring at electronic screens, for example, causes unnecessary levels of exposure. Keep reading to learn more about the ubiquitous problem of harmful blue light.

2. Many Adults Must Use Computers for Work

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An estimated 43 percent of adults work in a field that requires prolonged use of a tablet or PC. That means that nearly half of the workforce is exposed to large amounts of blue light. In addition to those who work with screens, many Americans enjoy TV and other electronic entertainment after work. Whether they’re playing computer games or browsing through their social media feed, Americans are exposed to huge amounts of screen time. As the computer-literate generations grow older, it’s reasonable to expect that we will continue to discover new consequences of this digitized lifestyle.

3. Blue Light May Contribute to Macular Degeneration

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Because the eye filters so little blue light, virtually all of it reaches the retina. It’s thought that the high-energy light may contribute to the gradual damage and degeneration of light-sensitive cells in the retina. Macular degeneration is a cause of vision loss that can even reach the point of blindness that is usually age-related. With growing numbers of young people spending so many hours with bright screens, there is cause for concern about the long-term effects of blue light.

4. Eyes Are Better at Blocking UV than Blue Light

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UV-blocking sunglasses help prevent cataracts and cancer. Without sunglasses, however, less than one percent of the sun’s UV light reaches the retina. On the other hand, nearly all of the blue light that reaches the eye continues to the retina. Blue light is a natural part of the visible spectrum of light, so it makes sense that your eyes wouldn’t filter out potentially useful information. Still, given the harmful potential of some forms of blue light, it is worth noting that the structure of the eyes offer very limited protection.

5. Some Blue Light Is Beneficial

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Not all blue light is harmful. In fact, it would be a bad idea to completely shield yourself from blue light (if that were even possible). Blue light is one of the cues that regulates the sleep cycle known as the circadian rhythm. The presence of visible blue light can elevate your mood and alertness, even improving cognitive function and memory. People who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression, are sometimes treated with blue light therapy.

6. The 20-20-20 Rule Reduces Digital Eye Strain

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To reduce digital eye strain, one of the most common recommendations is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, you should look away from the computer screen for about 20 seconds. To balance out the time you’ve spent focusing on the nearby screen, you should look at an object roughly 20 feet away, giving your eyes a chance to re-focus and exercise. When you’re jumping between windows or stuck in a single prolonged task, it is easy to lose track of time. Consider setting an on-screen reminder.

7. After Cataract Surgery, Blue Light Protection Is Even More Important

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Cataract surgery involves the removal of the lens that provides natural protection from harmful light. If you have cataract surgery, it is important to ask about the type of intraocular lens that was used. You may have to take additional precautions against UV light, and it’s worth asking whether they recommend any particular forms of protection for blue light as well. If you spend a lot of time with a computer, special lenses would likely be beneficial.

8. Special Apps Reduce Blue Light

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If you have an iPhone, then you can switch off the blue light with night shift. Reducing blue light will also be helpful for users who check their phones in bed, since blue light can keep you awake and disrupt sleep patterns. Other apps like Twilight and f.lux also filter out the excess blue light. Especially for adults with limited computer time, smartphones are a major source of blue light exposure. An app is a simple step to address this problem.

9. Special Eyewear Limits Blue Light Exposure

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Anti-reflective coatings on eyeglasses will reduce the refraction and glare that sometimes accompanies bright light. Glasses with blue-blocking filters are also an option. Lenses that are particularly effective at removing blue light may appear to have an amber tint. For programmers and others who spend particularly long hours with computers, special eyeglasses are designed specifically to reduce strain and improve focus with computer screens. In fact, special glasses are currently one of the best solutions for preventing computer vision syndrome.

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