Blue Light From Smartphone, Computer Displays Can Accelerate Blindness

Desiree Burns
August 10, 2018

Macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that results in significant vision loss starting on average in a person in their 50s or 60s, is the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina.

That's the warning being offered up by researchers from the USA who found that prolonged exposure to blue light can lead to the generation of poisonous molecules in the eye's light-sensitive cells. This is because the blue light causes it to trigger a series of reactions - a molecule in the affected cell's membrane distorts, then an increase in calcium changes its shape, and the cell dies. We also tend to turn to our devices at night, and that's when blue light is the most damaging.

Well, it's all to do with a molecule called retinal, which helps cells in the retina to sense light and relay visual information to the brain.

It kills photoreceptor cells, which do not regenerate.

"We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens can not block or reflect it", said Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor at University of Toledo in the US.

Special sunglasses that filter blue light might hep, but specialists are undecided about how much good they actually do. However, digital devices, such as computers, televisions, and smartphones, also emit blue light, and we spend an terrible lot of time staring directly at those screens from a close distance.

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According to a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, this blue light might speed up our chance of becoming blind. Blue rays of light, which have shorter wavelengths and more energy than other colors, can damage our eyes over time - they contribute to macular degeneration, the primary cause of blindness.

It is caused by the death of photoreceptor, ie light-sensitive cells in the retina. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells. "When they're dead, they're dead for good". They're hopeful that their research could lead to a treatment, such as eyedrops, that can slow macular degeneration. "It can kill any cell type". But as we age, or our immune system takes a hit, we lose the ability to fight against the toxic retinal attack - and that's when the damage occurs.

Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, an author on the study, said in a press release that not all types of light are risky, as "no activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light".

If you want to protect your eyes, Dr. Karunarathne suggests wearing sunglasses/glasses that filter out harmful UV and blue light, using blue light filters on phones and monitors, and avoid using electronic devices with screens in the dark.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and while it does not cause total blindness, AMD can make everyday activities such as reading and recognising faces hard. "We hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world".

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