When people think of workplace dangers to the eyes, it is usually machinery, chemicals or construction materials that come to mind. However, a growing danger to the eyes is one that may be less obvious - exposure to blue light from digital devices, television and computer screens and artificial lighting.
While the long-term effects of blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light emission are not yet fully known, what is known is that blue light is a cause of computer vision syndrome (CVS) and sleep disruptions. 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device and 70% of adults report some symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS) which include eyestrain, headaches, blurred or double vision, physical and mental fatigue, dry or watery eyes, difficulty focusing, sensitivity to light, or neck, shoulder or back pain (caused by compromised posture to adjust to vision difficulty). Most people do nothing to ease their discomfort from these symptoms because they are not aware of the cause.
In its natural form, blue light from the sun is actually beneficial to your body by helping to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycles - also known as your circadian rhythm. It can also boost your mood, alertness and overall feeling of well-being. However, prolonged exposure to artificial sources of blue light, such as that found in electronic devices, television and energy-efficient fluorescent and LED lights, has been shown to cause disruptions in the circadian rhythm as well as more serious vision problems. Researchers at Harvard University have linked blue light with damage to the retina at the back of your eyes, indicating that long-term exposure to blue light could be linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and possibly other serious health and vision problems.
Since 43% of adults work at jobs that require prolonged use of a computer, tablet or other digital monitor, blue light is an increasingly serious threat to your vision, health and productivity. There are a number of options for reducing your exposure to blue light which include computer glasses, specialized lenses and protective coatings. Speak to our eye care professionals to determine which option is best for you.
- Single Vision Computer Glasses: Provide the optimum lens power and field of view for viewing your computer screen without straining or leaning in to reduce symptoms of CVS. These are ideal for when the computer is at a fixed working distance, and work well if the user needs to view multiple screens at the same working distance.
- Office Lenses or Progressive Lenses: No-line multifocal eyewear that can be made to correct near, intermediate and some distance vision with a larger intermediate zone for computer vision if indicated. Perfect for those with presbyopia which is the gradual loss of focusing ability that occurs naturally with age. Office lenses work like progressive lenses but provide a wider field of view for intermediate (1-3 m) viewing distance and near working distance (about 40 cm).
- Blue-Blocking Lenses: Definitely recommended for this electronic age, blue-blocking lenses block blue light emitted from computer screens that is associated with glare, eye strain and possible sleep disturbances.
- Anti-glare and filtering coatings (treatments): Eliminate reflections from the surfaces of your lens to reduce eye strain and discomfort from glare. Some coatings can also block blue light emitted from computer screens.
While all of these are good options for protecting your eyes, the 20/20/20 rule still applies - after every 20 minutes of near tasks, look at something beyond 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds...it’s a good time to stretch the rest of the body too.
Additionally, diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids found in dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are protective to blue light damage.
A note about children and blue light:
Children are more prone to blue light damage than adults because the natural lenses in their eyes are so clear that blue light passes easily through to reach the retina. Adults are somewhat less prone since the older we get our natural lenses become more cloudy and blue light does not pass through quite as easily. Pediatricians recommend that young children under the age of two should get ZERO screen time. They have much better ways of developing their eyesight with activities requiring hand eye coordination with high contrast physical objects.
Technology is advancing the world, and our jobs and daily lives will only continue to rely upon it. Don’t let technology get in the way of your vision and your health. Ask us about the best solution for you.
Wednesday: the office is closed: Dr. Rodriguez teaches and is involved in professional activities