Smart devices (mainly phones) usage has been the largest drive of raised screen usage. Between 2015 and 2017, the time adults in the U.S spent using their smartphones more than doubled. Typical smartphone user, according to a study by “Dscout” of Android users, touches her or his phone 2500 times each day. More constant users interact with their smartphones more than five thousand times each day. Apple’s statistics revealed that iPhone users unlocked their phones 80 times per day. That means looking at a screen five times per hour whilst awake.
Smart phones, laptops, and other pocket digital devices all give off light. The blue light in particular is thought to be damaging for our eyes.
At the University of Toledo, scientists have perhaps discovered the way blue light transmitted from our tech can lead to macular degeneration, which is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the U.S.
blue light damage to eyes
Macular degeneration is the outcome of cell depletion in the retina. The function of the photoreceptor cells is to capture light and images and signal them to the brain using a molecule called retinal.
Retinal, which is produced by the eye, is activated by blue light and causes several chemical reactions. The reactions inside the eye can be harmful to the photoreceptor cell molecules, meaning they are damaged. Once these photoreceptor cells die, there’s no reviving them.
What the study found
The study also introduced retinal to different cells in the human body, including heart cells, cancer cells, and neurons. When these retinal-infused cells were made visible to blue light, they too died.
There was no difference recorded when either blue light or retinal were used on their own. The study exposed various cells from the human body to yellow, green, and red light as well, and curiously, results weren’t seen.
“The blue light generated toxicity which is universal it can kill any cell type,” said the scientists.
This outcome from blue light appears to be that it has a shorter wavelength when compared to the other colors and, because of this, outputs more energy. The additional energy could be the reason for this chemical change causing retinal-generated toxicity.
“Blue light appears to damage retinal cells. It remains unclear just what amount of blue light and for what length of time it’s necessary to damage the sight-seeing cells. We do know the damage is irreversible,” said Dr. Mark Fromer, ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Should we panic
Even though the discovery that the mixture of blue light and retinal can cause damage to the cells, the experiments were conducted in a laboratory setting, not on eyes themselves.
The University team conducted the study to learn the mechanism and capacity to which blue light causes cell elimination, but they’re uncertain if this occurs in the eye itself.
Blue light effects on brain
In a statement on his university website, the team released, “We caution the public that our study does not show that light from mobile devises or other digital screens cause blindness.”
They continue, “Whether blue light from mobile devices and smart screens produce near identical toxicity levels is an unanswered question and requires further studies.”
Who can it affect
Macular degeneration can actually affect all sorts of people, but it’s most likely to afflict those over the age of 60. Although scientists have a reason to think this may occur sooner with longer exposure to blue light devices.
The BrightFocus Foundation stated that more than 10 million people in the U.S. are affected with some type of age-related macular degeneration. This statistic is predicted to double within 30 years.
Read: How sleeping with your phone increases the risk of cancer and infertility
In modern life, unnatural light at night tricks the circadian system into believing it is daytime. Exposure to the wavelengths of blue light given off by screens in the hours leading up to your sleep can impact your body’s ability to rest and cause sleep disorders. The circadian system also impacts other bodily systems, such as digestion, blood pressure, temperature regulation, and metabolism, which can increase your risk to more serious conditions.
Worldwide, they expect it to affect almost two hundred and ninety million people in twenty years. Shielding yourself from blue light may look easy, but it might be more difficult.
Blue light doesn’t just come from our digital devices; it also comes in natural sunlight. Not only that, but a couple of situations like using your technology at night can amplify the blue light as well. Transmitted blue light, especially in the dark, channels the light into a very narrow area inside your eye.
One study demonstrates this phenomenon by using a magnifying glass in the sun. The light became so intense and focused that it can burn an eye.
The blue light from these screened devices can also be a leading cause of dry eyes.
“With the increased usage of iPads, smart phones and laptops, studies have found that there has been a rise in the condition of dry eyes as a result of less blinking,” explains Angela Bevels, OD, founder and owner of Elite Dry Eye Spa in Tucson, Arizona.
It is thought the longer someone is viewing their devices, the less times they’ll blink. This then causes the tears to evaporate quicker, leaving the cornea to dry out. In a bid to combat this condition, more and more technology companies are creating potential remedies.
To combat this, Apple has introduced a “night shift” setting, and Samsung developed a “blue light filter” to minimize the volume of blue light that’s displayed on the screen of the device (phone blue light filter).
Samsung advises more people should “consider limiting their time on these devices” and to “allow your eyes to rest if performing lengthy jobs on the computer.”
A recommendation is simply to close your eyes for a short period or to look at a far object to help relax the muscle of the eye and lower unnecessary strain as well as to consider limiting exposure to the screens, especially at night.
Blue Light Filters
Most operating systems’ vendors have acknowledged blue light dangers and provided blue light filters. Night Mode on Android, Mac OS and iOS Nightshift mode and Windows 10 blue Light Settings, all allow users to reduce blue light emission automatically at set times. Plastic blue light filters are also available to fit in front of screens.
The 20/20/20 rule
Cambridge Eye Care in Ontario Canada, promotes the 20-20-20 rule. Once every twenty minutes, have a twenty second pause and focus your eyes on something further than twenty feet away. This simple rule will give your eyes a much-needed break and reduce eye strain and other computer-related eye stress.
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