It’s no surprise that staring at screens for hours on end could do some damage to your eyes. Whether it’s eye irritation, dryness, fatigue or blurred vision, your eyes just aren’t meant to be staring into the digital distance for as long as some of us are. In fact, more than 83 percent of American adults spend two or more hours a day in front of a screen in some capacity, according to a report by The Vision Council.
“Some of us are using these things for up to nine hours a day. Your eye muscles have to focus at that near range and that can be fatiguing,” said Dr. Christopher Starr, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “You can imagine if you were at the gym and you held a dumbbell, your bicep would be extremely sore nine hours later….same thing for your eyes, you have to take breaks to relieve those muscles.”
A new study found shocking results about blue light on our eyes
New research from The University of Toledo shows an even bigger risk to looking at screens too long. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that the blue light that emits from smartphones and tablets can modify the cellular structure in our eyes, which could accelerate blindness.
“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” Dr. Karunarathne.
In layman’s terms: The blue light can cause your retinal molecules, which sense light and signal the brain, to die off—which essentially is what causes macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that causes blindness starting in your 50s or 60s.
“You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see,” said Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Photoreceptors are useless without retinal, which is produced in the eye.”
So all that blue light exposure? The study found it might be making you more likely to develop macular degeneration early on.
“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina,” said Dr. Karunarathne. He’s right—research on blue light has been ongoing for quite some time, and in recent years, some companies (Apple, Amazon and Google) have even gone through lengths to introduce technology that helps limit people’s exposure to blue light, like blue light filters.
Luckily, this new research could lead to more ways to protecting our eyes and slowing the progression of diseases such as macular degeneration, and even help children who are being brought up in a world of excessive screen time.
“We hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop,” Dr. Karunarathne said. “By learning more about the mechanisms of blindness in search of a method to intercept toxic reactions caused by the combination of retinal and blue light, we hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world,” Karunarathne said.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can protect your eyes from blue light right now. If you want to protect your eyes, and learn more about this recent study, check out the video below.
What do you think of this recent study? Did you know blue light could be so harmful to your eyes? How often do you or your children look at screens?