What is blue light and why is it a problem all of a sudden? More and more information is surfacing in the news about what I will call the “Blue Light Phenomenon”. For years, doctors have been warning patients about the long-term effects of ultraviolet (UV) light on the skin and on the eyes. Smart consumers have been protecting their skin with suntan lotions or by wearing long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses. It is proven that those that did not protect themselves are more likely to develop skin cancer and cataracts at earlier ages. And now we have the Blue Light Phenomenon?
Scientists have studied the long term effects of all forms of light, both visible and invisible, on the skin and eyes for many years. Current studies are proving that certain wavelengths of visible blue light are dangerous to the eyes and are a major cause of adult-onset macular degeneration. Adult-onset macular degeneration, or AMD, causes a reduction or loss of central vision, rarely affects the peripheral vision, and can be devastating to a person’s independence. People can no longer drive a car, read standard print books or newspapers, see the beautiful faces of their grandchildren, and in many cases have difficulty walking or navigating their way without help.
Visible light is composed of an infinite number of colors. For simplification, try to get a mental picture of a rainbow. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet are the main colors. But if you really look at this rainbow, you will see that each color is actually a blend of colors. The red is not just one red but a blend of different hues of red. The other colors follow along in the same way. The blue light however is the one of major concerns to humans. Certain hues of blue light are damaging to the eyes and can cause AMD with exposure over a lifetime. What is a lifetime? For some, eye doctors can see the signs of AMD in a patient’s early thirties and for others, it shows up in the early to mid-sixties.
As we all know, harmful UV rays come from the sun. And so does harmful blue light. Pre-1975, the sun was about the only place we were exposed to harmful blue light. Today, we are exposed indoors as well. Cell phones, tablets, LED lighting, compact fluorescent bulbs, LED and LCD TV’s all emit harmful blue light rays. We have almost constant exposure and it is not healthy.
The good news is that eye care professionals now have access to eyeglass lens materials and oral supplements that can help protect the retina from developing AMD. Understand that the Blue Light Phenomenon is not the only thing that has been shown to contribute to AMD. Family history, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and other health issues are also implicated in leading to AMD. As eye care providers, it is our job to both educate our patients about health issues and provide guidance to minimize the possibilities of AMD development.
In our practice and in forward-thinking eye care practices across the country, we have embraced the use of BluTech lenses. These lenses are the only available lenses that filter out the most harmful wavelengths of blue light and UV light, thereby offering the ultimate in eye protection. Patients anecdotally have told my staff that their eyes feel so much more comfortable with these lenses. Burning sensations have disappeared. Computer use is more comfortable and patients are less fatigued at the days’ end. There are both indoor and outdoor BluTech lenses.
In my next blog I will talk more about “What is AMD” and the supplements that are available to offer protection to our most valuable sense…..our sight.
Dr. Joel Kestenbaum
Optix Family Eyecare Center