Does Blue Light cause vision loss or blindness?

 5 min read

Over the last years, human lives have increasingly become reliant on digital devices. Most of us cannot go minutes without having to look at our phones while it is only a few years back that owning a mobile phone was only for the rich. Phones have evolved from just allowing us to make calls; phones have additional functionality that allows us to interact with each other through social media, read online news and publications and keep tabs on our friends and family through user-friendly messaging apps. With most of us spending a huge part of our time on these digital devices, one begins to understand why blue-light is potentially dangerous and has negative health effects.

A huge amount of the blue light we encounter during the day comes from the sun. This blue light is beneficial to our bodies because it helps our bodies remain alert and focused during the day. Additionally, it is responsible for letting our bodies know when it is time to sleep as it prompts the brain to trigger the production of melatonin, which is a hormone designed to help us get a goodnight's sleep. However, blue light is also emitted by digital devices in artificial form. Such light is bound to have adverse health effects on us, such as headache and fatigue, considering how close we hold such devices close to our eyes or how long we remain exposed to them. The blue light emitted from such devices, for example, when you are scrolling through a social media feed at night, will even cause your natural sleep cycle to change. However, one could ask about dangerous health outcomes that artificial blue light causes, such as blindness and vision loss.

A study done in the University of Toledo USA in 2018 shows the presence of links between artificial blue light and permanent eye damage. The study shows that prolonged exposure to blue light can cause the eye to attack itself as it affects the retinal molecules that are responsible for sensing light and triggering signals to the brain. According to Assistant Professor in the University's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, a human being requires a continuous supply of the retinal molecules to maintain the sense of vision. Dr. Karunarathne's lab studies have shown that blue light triggers the retinal molecules to generate poisonous chemical molecules in the eye. In support of this, another researcher called Kasun Ratnayake refers to blue light as toxic because it dissolves the signaling molecule on the membrane of the photoreceptor cells, thereby killing them. Once these retinal molecules are gone, they cannot be recovered or re-develop again.

Additionally, human beings are at the risk of macular degeneration, which is common for people in their 50s and 60s due to the death of the photoreceptor cells in the retinal molecules, which can cause permanent vision damage requiring that one use glasses to aid in seeing. However, as identified by Dr. Karunarathne's, the overexposure of the human eye to blue light can cause macular degeneration to happen at a much earlier time. It is his hope that his findings will provide ground to therapies that can help contain macular degeneration. Additionally, other researchers have recommended the use of filters to keep out potentially eye-damaging rays away. For example, the production of smartphone devices has started, including blue light filters on the screens. You can also invest in blue-light filtering glasses if you are concerned about the amount of blue light you are exposed to.

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