Written by MacuHealth
Reviewed by Jim Stringham, Ph.D.
Blue light is inescapable. We’re exposed to its short, high-energy wavelengths when we check our phones in the morning, and it strains our eyes as we stare at our computer monitors and tablets at work. Blue light is in the sunlight and fills our home when we turn on the lights and television sets. But does blue light damage eyes? We’ll share some reasons to cut down your exposure, along with proven ways you can protect your eyes.
Blue light isn’t entirely unhealthy. Studies show it’s vital for some body functions. It releases serotonin, a hormone that can boost your mood and improve memory and reaction time. It also keeps us alert during the day and enhances our color vision.
But exposure to blue light at certain times of the day can be harmful. A Harvard study showed that blue light exposure before bedtime slows down the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our body’s circadian rhythm (or sleeping pattern). This disruption leaves us feeling more tired throughout the day, putting us at risk for depression, diabetes and heart issues.
But does blue light damage eyes? Prolonged exposure can cause eye strain and damage the macula, the part of your retina that processes your central vision. It accelerates the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and lowers your ability to see objects at night. It also leads to dry, irritated eyes and headaches.
Blue light protection is even more important after cataract surgery. The eye’s lens blocks some blue light on its own. Patients lose that natural filter that the cataract provides when it’s removed, which increases their risk for AMD.
Increased screen time can be harmful to children’s developing vision. In addition to the effects of blue light on their sleeping pattern, studies have shown that nearsightedness (also known as myopia) is increasingly prevalent among kids, with tablets and video game consoles suggested as the culprit.
As shown above, the answer to the question, “Does blue light damage eyes?” is “Yes.” And as the public becomes better educated on the dangers of blue light, device manufacturers have added a dark mode and other settings to products to reduce glare and block blue light by 30 to 60 percent. You can also rest your eyes by taking a 20-second break from your screen every 20 minutes, then focusing on an object 20 feet away.
Blue-blocking glasses have become popular over the last few years. They’re proven to stop blue light, but researchers don’t recommend them as they’ve been ineffective at reducing eye strain. You can try using artificial tears and humidifiers to keep your eyes moist and decrease headaches.
We’ve answered the question: Does blue light damage eyes? But is there any thing we can do to absorb it? In one clinical study, those who spent more than six hours in front of a screen and took a macular carotenoid supplement with Lutein, Meso-Zeaxanthin and Zeaxanthin showed a significant reduction in headaches, eye strain and fatigue. There was also an increased improvement in sleep quality and macular pigment levels.1
However, several nutrition-based studies have demonstrated that we tend to fall short in our intake of fruits and vegetables, particularly the three antioxidant carotenoids that protect the central retina against blue light – Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Meso-Zeaxanthin. Over time, without these nutrients, we run the risk of degeneration in our central retina. Consistent consumption of these carotenoids is necessary to maintain the health of the macula, especially as we age.
Although the body can absorb these carotenoids from spinach, carrots and other foods, the average person only consumes one to two milligrams of them daily in their diet.2 Additionally, new farming methods and environmental conditions have caused a decline in the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, which means that we get about 1/20th of the recommended amount of these vital nutrients.
Supplementation with these three carotenoids is a viable way to ensure high levels in the retina. Quality supplements like MacuHealth are an excellent way to ensure that the body receives the proper amount of the essential carotenoids it needs to support visual health and performance. Studies show that supplements containing Lutein, Meso-Zeaxanthin and Zeaxanthin increase the macular pigment significantly, improve visual performance and absorb blue light.