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Why Should I Care About Blue Light?

Over 20 years ago the most noted issue related to the light spectrum was ultra-violet light. Today mounting evidence points to an equal, if not greater concern about Blue Light. Its role and effect on the eye – vision health and human physiology (processes of the brain including melatonin production and its role in regulating sleep, which in turn affects organ function) is undeniable.

Direct consequences of Blue Light exposure:

The most critical human organ affected by natural source Blue Light is the eye. The result is gradual oxidation and macular deterioration over the course of a lifetime, and in a manifested state – degeneration.

According to the American Optometric Association(AOA), children are more at risk from damaging sunlight because the lens on their eyes allows unfiltered light to reach the retina at the back of the eye. Most of us acquire over 70% of light vision damage before 18 years of age because from birth to the late teen age years the lens of the eye has no protection and both Ultraviolet light and Blue Light pass unfiltered through the lens. After extended exposure and age the eye begins to produce pigment to protect the lens, appropriately called Ocular Lens Pigment.

As our society is exposed to greater amounts of Blue Light (time spent outdoors and indoors e.g. Computer use, gaming, indoor adoption of energy efficient lighting) the impact on the human body is showing. There are two dramatic effects of Blue Light:

How does Blue Light effect me?

We are exposed to greater amounts of Blue Light, particularly Artificial Blue light from Computers, Tablets, Televisions, and energy efficient lighting. There are two ways that Blue Light is impacting us:

Direct consequences of Blue Light exposure

– Impact on the eye

SHORT TERM effects associated with unfiltered Blue Light exposure produces the short term phenomenon of “veiled glare” which results in vision irritation (dry, burning, itchy eyes, fatigue and headaches).

MEDIUM TERM effects are complicated by age (most lifelong eye damage is done from birth to our late teenage years).

LONG TERM effects of Blue Light impact on the eye may include damage to the retina (specifically retinal pigment epithelium cells), and progressive degeneration of the macula, which is the leading cause of visual impairment (e.g. Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This type of vision loss affects color perception, the ability to read, write, drive and other cognitive functions. In a fully affected form, this type of degeneration can lead to blindness. Age Related Macular Degeneration is a worldwide epidemic affecting an estimated 30 to 50 million people; this is equal to the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and all cancers combined. AMD is misunderstood as a disease of the elderly, when in fact middle-aged individuals are at risk: For example, a 50-year-old American woman is four times more likely to be diagnosed with AMD than breast cancer before she reaches the age of 55.

Indirect consequences of Blue Light exposure

– Physiological

While naturally occurring Blue Light has been overlooked, of greater concern is the rise in the artificial sources of Blue Light. The Harvard University Science Journal links Blue Light to broader health issues. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in humans and is directly involved in regulating the circadian rhythm of the brain. With Blue Light exposure from artificial light sources, the pineal gland produces less Melatonin and the normal sleep cycle is affected. Ineffective sleep is linked to workplace safety, learning and memory problems, and an overall increase in mortality. The impact on circadian rhythm can result in a multitude of health concerns including attention and depression issues, cardiovascular performance (may lead to cardiometabolic consequences such as Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, organ function impact) and has been associated with an increased cancer risk and impaired immune system function.