Blue light, another name for high-energy visible (HEV) light in the blue and violet part of the light spectrum, is a particularly intense light wave emitted by many modern electronics — including computers, tablets, TVs and smart phones — and even compact fluorescent light bulbs.
With today's increased use of electronic devices, the population is being exposed to more sources of blue light than ever before and for longer periods of time, yet 63% of adults do not know that electronics emit HEV blue light.
New research suggests that overexposure to blue light may contribute to vision problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). While the long-term implications are just now being studied, the short-term impact of digital eyestrain affects individuals on a daily basis.
As eye care professionals, we are in a unique situation to educate and inform the public about the dangers of blue light exposure and the impact it can have on vision, as well as to provide patients with solutions that can help minimize the damaging effects.
In 2012 The Vision Council conducted a survey of 10,000 adults, age 18 and older, about their use of digital media and the accompanying symptoms of vision problems. Nearly 70% of adults who report regular usage of media devices experienced some symptoms of digital eyestrain, but many did nothing to lessen their discomfort mainly due to lack of knowledge.
The survey also revealed that the public had a general lack of knowledge about digital eyestrain being a real health issue, with fewer than 1 in 5 adults having heard of the term and only 23% being aware that special digital-use eyewear exists that could help reduce symptoms.
Eye care providers have noted a steady rise in the number of patients with digital eyestrain (computer related eyestrain), whose symptoms include dry, irritated eyes, blurred vision, headaches, and neck and back pain.
To preserve eye health and help adults, kids and teenagers adapt to digital lifestyle, the optical industry is investing in new lens technologies to enhance the digital experience while minimizing eyestrain as an increasing number of people from all age groups spend more time in front of screens.
Computer glasses help the eye adjust to intermediate-distance objects such as computer screens. A modified lens power relaxes the eye while providing a large field of view. And an anti-reflective coating helps combat eye strain by softening the glare of harsh indoor and outdoor lighting, while also improving the contrast of digital content. There are even lenses that selectively absorb harmful blue light, keeping it from entering through the cornea. These lenses are either infused with melanin or use a blue-light filtering coating.
Wearing a lens treated with a blue-light filter coating helped reduce symptoms of eyestrain by half during prolonged computer exposure.
2.42 symptoms before versus 1.47 symptoms with blue coating (p=0.04).
After wearing a lens treated with a blue-light filter coating, subjects with symptoms of eyestrain due to prolonged computer exposure felt a significant improvement of the following symptoms: dry eyes, sticky eyes, and the feeling of grittiness or "sand" in the eye.
They also reported trends of the overall vision and improved visual performances in situations of low contrast.
Despite the eye's natural defences, there is growing medical evidence that overexposure to HEV blue light can damage the retina, the part of the eye that brings objects into focus. This damage occurs when blue light penetrates the macular pigment of the eye and causes a breakdown of the retina, leaving the eye more vulnerable to blue light exposure and cell degeneration.
A Harvard medical study stated that "High Energy Visible (HEV) blue light has been identified for years as the most dangerous light for the retina. After chronic exposure, one can expect to see long range growth in the number of macular degenerations, glaucomas, and retinal degenerative diseases". And a paper published by the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) reported that "the blue rays of the spectrum seem to accelerate age-related macular degeneration (AMD) more than any other rays in the spectrum". In addition, a report by the Beaver Dam Eye Study showed that "increased exposure to blue light in the teens, 20s, and 30s increased the risk of onset age AMD by 10 years, effectively doubling the chances of blindness during lifetime."
This growing medical evidence is just one of the reasons why it's so important to educate the patients about the risks of chronic, long-term exposure to blue light to their vision, and how it could lead to an increased risk of macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and other retinal eye degenerative diseases.
As eye care professionals, patients turn to us for guidance on their eye health and recommendations for their vision problems. To help patients make an informed decision as to their possible vision solutions, we recommend the following topics of discussion as part of the consultation process:
Educating patients on the effect of high energy blue light emitted by electronic sources.
Asking patients about their daily exposure to blue light and inform them of its consequences.
Questioning the patient’s potential for digital eyestrain.
Providing patients with solutions to help them reduce their digital eyestrain and enhance the comfort of their overall visual health; such as lens options, lens treatments and tints.
Recommending the use of blue light coating for lenses especially for those lens wearers exposed to 6 or more hours in front of a screen.
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Kitchel, E, M.Ed (2000). «The Effects of Blue Light on Ocular». American Printing House for the Blind Health. <http://www.cclvi.org/contributions/effects1.htm>
Grandchamps , A (2005). «La lumière». Formation des personnes-ressources en science et technologie. <http://www2.cslaval.qc.ca/cdp/UserFiles/File/telechargement/lumiere.pdf>
«Health Effects of Artificial Light». Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks. <http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/emerging/docs/scenihr_o_035.pdf>
«DigitEYEzed: The Daily Impact of Digital Screens on the eye health of Americans». The vision council (2013). <http://www.thevisioncouncil.org/sites/default/files/TVCDigitEYEzedReport2013.pdf>
Mattison, M (2012). «Controlling Blue Light with Ophthalmic Lenses». White paper.
Teens and Technology 2013. Pew Research Center. <http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/03/13/teens-and-technology-2013/>
Kids Still Getting Too Much 'Screen Time': CDC. <http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/u-s-kids-still-getting-too-much-screen-time-cdc-689571.html>
L’étude de UDM : (À être validé par le client)
« Effet du port d’un traitement réfléchissant les courtes longueurs d’onde sur les symptômes de fatigue visuelle » Nicolas Fontaine, O.D., M.Sc., F.A.A.O., Chercheur principal, professeur adjoint à l’École d’optométrie de l’Université de Montréal et Benoît Frenette, O.D., M.Sc., Co-chercheur, professeur agrégé à l’École d’optométrie de l’Université de Montréal, ainsi que Jean-Marie Hanssens, O.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., Co-chercheur, Directeur clinique et professeur adjoint à l’École d’optométrie de l’Université de Montréal.