16:13 PM

The Connection Between Blue Light and Eye Health Isn’t So Clear



Looking at electronic devices for too long can cause eye problems, but it’s probably not because of blue light.

If you’ve been spending hours over the past year in front of a digital screen for work meetings, connecting with friends or simply relaxing, you may have experienced eye strain, dry eyes or headaches.

Could blue light from your electronic devices be behind your hurting eyes? Or worse, could blue light cause permanent damage?

While some studies suggest blue light may damage the retina – the part of the eye that receives light – experts believe that the amount of blue light from electronic devices is not harmful to the eye or will increase the risk of diseases like macular degeneration.

“There is no scientific evidence that blue light from digital devices causes damage to your eye,” reports the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). That’s why the Academy does not recommend special blue light-blocking eyeglasses for computer use.

But what is blue light?

Blue light is a type of visible light that’s perceived to be blue in color. Bright white-light LEDs, which backlight the displays in smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers, produce a high amount of blue light.

Blue light has more energy than other colors and could potentially cause damage at high enough doses. But consumer electronics don’t emit a lot of light. For example, retail stores are twice as bright as recent iPhones set at maximum brightness. And the sun yields an amount of blue light more than 10 times greater than a smartphone.

While the amount of blue light may not harm your eyes, it can affect your circadian rhythms, the body’s natural wake and sleep cycle. If you’re scrolling your phone or computer late at night, too much blue light exposure could make it harder to fall asleep.

Limiting screen time before bedtime and setting your devices to nighttime settings to minimize blue light exposure could improve your sleep quality.

But why do my eyes hurt after looking at my devices?

When people look at a digital screen for too long, they blink less. This can cause eye strain, dryness, burning, tearing, blurred vision and headaches, according to Rahul Khurana, MD, a spokesperson for the AAO.

An easy way to protect your eyes against eye strain is to practice the "20-20-20" rule: every 20 minutes, try to look 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This helps the eyes relax and reset.

The AAO also recommends the following tips to reduce eye strain, especially for children:

  • Set a timer to remind you how often to look into the distance.
  • Alternate reading an e-book with a real book.
  • Avoid using screens outside or in brightly lit areas, where glare can create eye strain.
  • Use good posture, which can help you avoid muscle tightness and headaches.
  • Hold screens at least 18 to 24 inches from your face.

If you have trouble with eye strain, it may be possible you need glasses or a new prescription.

What’s more, good eye health is also closely tied to a person’s overall wellness, and regular exams can lead to early detection of potential medical issues, including hypertension and diabetes.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) plans include vision coverage for children under the age of 19. Affordable coverage and added benefits for other family members are also available through standalone vision plans Horizon BCBSNJ offers to cover eye examinations, glasses or contact lenses. Discounts for laser vision correction are also available. Check out the Horizon BCBSNJ vision plans here.