Blue Light, Your Eyes, and Something to Consider
In today’s society our electronic devices have become essential in our day-to-day tasks. As our dependence on personal devices has increased there has been an increase in, what is being called, Digital Eye Strain. Digital Eye Strain is classified by symptoms such as, but not limited to; blurred vision, headaches, and dry eyes after prolonged use of a digital device (Murphy, Cheryl. “Easing Digital Eye Strain” Solutions for Digit-Eyezed Living, 2020 Magazine, Vision Monday. Pages 4-6). In addition to what usually amounts to poor posture and bad lighting, there is also the light itself being emitted by the device that contribute to DES (Digital Eye Strain). While DES is an annoyance immediately it is also a potential precursor to other health issues down the line.
Blue light is a very broad term for a small portion that is actually the culprit in regards to DES. When looking at blue light wavelengths 400nm-500nm the most harmful are 400nm-450nm. At the low end, we are looking at bordering ultra-violet light. Within this smaller range, extended periods of exposure cause damage to the retina and cell death. Our devices do NOT fall into this category, however they are emitting blue light between 450nm-470nm. Not a very large jump from retinal damage and cell death. Focusing on this 20nm range, what does this actually do? The newest studies show that at its worst, it does slowly kill the eye’s cells and does damage to the retina. This occurs over the period of years with no protection. People who spend a majority of their time on computers, tablets, or cell phones are more likely to suffer from AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration) sooner and it progresses more quickly (“Ultra-Violet and Blue Light Aggravate Macular Degeneration”. American Macular Degeneration Foundation.https://www.macular.org/ultra-violet-and-blue-light). You could think of it as a positive ratio of time: progression, as time increases so does the progression of AMD. It also effects our ability to sleep. Blue light suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, as we use our devices late into the day (and night) we produce less melatonin. This makes falling to sleep and staying asleep harder. A lack of sleep takes its toll on not just your eye health but your overall health. Harvard Health recently published “Blue Light has a Dark Side” which discussed the relationship between blue light and our sleep patterns. A lack of sleep is known to influence depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular health. How does this all fit into DES? DES is believed to be a signal of future eye health issues, aside from the immediate discomfort of dry itchy eyes and headaches. DES should be a warning to us all to unplug and spend some time away from our electronics.
Now you are probably thinking, “Well what about my eight hour work day? I have to use a computer at work, and I enjoy reading on my tablet/phone.” Worry not! There are ways to combat blue light and some simple actions to benefit your eye health. The first thing is changing your work space set up.
Your computer monitor should be at eye level or just slightly below so that you’re not having to ben your neck much to see the screen. Also place your monitor finger tips distance away. See below Microsoft’s suggested desk configuration. This placement will decrease the amount of pressure on your neck muscles as well as your shoulders and upper back. Reducing tension headaches. The distance of the monitor allows for more comfortable vision. Also try to alleviate any additional glare from windows and overhead lights. Consider the use of matte screen coverings,
Make the 20/20/20 rule a habit. That means every 20 minutes take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. This will help relax the eye muscles so you don’t have to try so hard to focus up close. This will also help reduce dry eye. We tend to blink less when using our devices, keep this in mind and make an effort to blink more. Lastly wear computer specific and protective eyewear, there are many options that will help you make a difference in how much work and exposure your eyes get.
If you look at the market for “blue-blocking” or “computer” lenses you will see its quickly becoming saturated with options that all claim to be the best. We will look at options that are easily accessible, beneficial, and cosmetically the most appealing. Starting with lens coatings: Prevencia and Recharge are two coatings that we stand behind in durability and efficiency. Crizal is the leading anti-reflective coating manufacturer with the strongest and easiest to clean coating across the board. Known for advanced technology in the anti-reflective and UV protection fields they released Crizal Prevencia. Its purple/ green hues with yellow undercoat appear nearly invisible to anyone looking at them and virtually unperceivable to the wearer. It can be added to just about any lens option and is a great all the time anti-reflective. Hoya’s Recharge is another great option, however it can only be used with Hoya lenses. Both are great options for filtering out blue light from your device. Coatings are the easiest way to decrease blue light exposure and eye fatigue. If this is the only lens upgrade you chose, you have already made huge strides towards a healthier eye.
Next we will look at computer lenses for progressive wearers. A large portion of our working population is headed into progressive multifocal lenses. More cosmetically appealing than a lined bifocal and better for the computer to begin with progressives are taking over for people forty-five and older. Anyone who has already begun to wear progressives will tell you that while they can find a “sweet spot” for the computer prolonged use isn’t very comfortable. Keeping this in mind the industry has altered the average progressive and create Near Variable Focus lenses. NVF’s are a modified bifocal/ progressive. They allow for up to fifteen feet distance vision with a wide computer range and a larger reading zone. Shamir has multiple “computer” type lenses for varying distance combinations such as the Workspace and Autograph Office both, of which give the full range of visual correction in task specific form. Essilor also makes a computer lens that caters to the desk dwellers with its main focal point being for the computer. Coupling these lenses with the mentioned coatings is a blessing in disguise. Yes doing a computer specific lens means you will probably need to purchase multiple pairs but it does allow for greater comfort and (our running theme) reduced fatigue.
Lastly we will look at a new Essilor lens called EyeZen. EyeZen is a newly launched lens that is going to be made in non-presciption and anti-fatigue single vision lenses. Coupled with materials like polycarbonate and trivex (both UV resistant materials) and Prevencia these are the “Millennials” lenses. While not yet approved by insurances these lenses are made with the young professional, college student, and everyday computer user in mind. In the non-prescription form they are used solely to protect your eyes from blue light. In the anti-fatigue single vision lenses they protect and correct with a modified lens that makes up close work easier, similar to the lenses above but for people who don’t need progressive just yet.
If you feel, when using the computer you notice changes to your eyes, we suggest seeing your eye care professional for an exam. Annual exams as preventative care are always suggested.
Emma Fuchs-Sanchez A.B.O.C.