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Digital Lifestyles and Ocular Health

Friday, June 01, 2018

Unfortunately, way too many people, including those who actively take steps to protect their eyes, are still unaware that today's digital lifestyle increases ocular health risk through excessive exposure to blue light.

Blue Light

Blue light is emitted from a multitude of sources including sunlight, digital devices (e.g. computers, laptops, smartphones, television screens and energy-efficient indoor lighting, specifically compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.

     • By 2020, 90 percent of all indoor light sources are estimated to be LED / CFL

     • Eighty-eight percent of American adults have a smart phone, 57 percent have a laptop, 19 percent own an e-book reader, and 19 percent have a tablet computer  

     • Children ages 2 to 5 watch more than 3.5 hours of television in an average day

     • Children ages 8 to 10 spend about 5.5 hours each day using media, but they’re actually exposed to almost 8 hours of media, because they use multiple media simultaneously

     • Seventy-two percent of children ages 8 and younger have used a mobile device for some type of media activity, up from 38 percent in 2011

     • Time spent online by teenager aged 13 to 17 rose 37 percent to just more than 4 hours per day, compared to 2012

     • Adults spend on average 9.5 hours per day in front of media screens.

The light the human eye responds to is a narrow band of electromagnetic radiation between 390 to 700 nanometers and within this band, blue light makes up some of the highest energy – between 400 to 500 nanometers. Unlike UV-light exposure, which is almost exclusively from the sun, blue light is emitted from a multitude of sources. Therefore, compared to UV-light, daily exposure to blue light from both outdoor and indoor sources is significantly greater.

Absorption of almost all ambient UV-light occurs primarily in the cornea and crystalline lens and results of long-term exposure can manifest within the outer layers of the eye. Blue light, however, penetrates deeper into the eye and has the potential to damage retinal structure / function through photochemical and photo-oxidative reactions in the retinal pigment layer. There are several studies that suggest that UV-light from the sun may be less of a causative factor for conditions associated with retinal damage.

Short-term exposure may lead to gradual loss of visual function. The mechanisms by which blue light damages the eye are multifactorial, but primarily mediated through photo-oxidative reactions and the generation of reactive oxygen species. Due to its high metabolic rate and exposure to high-energy blue light, the retinal pigment epithelial cells are the primary target of photo-oxidative damage.  Our best advice is to within reason, limit time spent of computer monitors, cell phone screens, and tablets.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


The damaging effect of blue light is a cumulative process and often the result of a lack of protection by endogenous mechanisms.  —James Stringham, PhD

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