Have you ever wondered what the blue-light blocking glasses were about? Well, it turns out that something which began as one of those “Only sold on TV” products actually has real basis in fact. And you may be one of the many that could benefit from them.
The entire spectrum of light is important to humans in many more ways than just sight. Light is a double-edged sword, however–for instance, we need sunshine in order to produce vitamin D, but we have to protect ourselves from the UV light that comes with it, to prevent skin cancer. One of the other elements of sunlight is blue light, and it’s both important to us, and when too prevalent, capable of damaging our sight permanently.
Blue light is all around us now, more than ever before. Incandescent light, for those old enough to remember when it was most prevalent in homes, puts off a yellow glow, as light is produced by the heat of the filament. Fluorescent bulbs actually put off a form of light (ultraviolet) that we can’t even see, but is changed into a much whiter and more visible light than an incandescent bulb by the coating of the tubes.
According to The Vision Council, the types of lighting that have replaced incandescent bulbs, LEDs (light emitting diodes) and CFLs (compact fluorescents, both emit blue light in the most potentially harmful ranges, and “this cumulative and constant exposure to blue light can damage retinal cells.” Retinal cells, unlike many of the body’s cells, cannot regenerate, and continued damage can put us at risk for a condition called age-related macular degeneration. The macula rests at the center of the retina, and is where very fine details of what we see are processed. The process of deterioration can be very slow in the dry form, or quite rapid, in the wet form, and unfortunately, “AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.”
There doesn’t seem to be any agreement about what causes AMD, or what makes some people very susceptible to it, but most references agree that excessive blue light can accelerate the deterioration process. So, when are we exposed to blue light the most?
Sunlight contains blue light, but of course, we’re not staring at the sun for hours on any given day. And, like other forms of light, there are benefits to blue light, as well. In fact, many studies suggest that the blue light available in the sun is what suppresses our bodies’ production and absorption of the hormone melatonin and thereby keeps us awake and alert.
When the sun goes down, our melatonin naturally rises, and it’s off to bed and fast asleep. Well, we would be, except of course we now light our evenings with blue light sources. Your computer, your tablet, your cellphone, and the television you’re watching are all blue-light emitters. If you’ve ever heard advice for those with insomnia that says “Turn off the electronics before bedtime,” that’s why. By shutting off the sources of blue light, we allow melatonin to rise, and ourselves to get naturally sleepy.
Where forms of light are concerned, there are two working environments that can benefit the most from blue-light blocking eyewear:
Don’t forget, too, that your children are in front of computer screens, tablets or on their cellphones for many more hours a day than we ever were. Blue-light blocking prescription glasses are available now for any wearer, and well worth talking to your eye doctor about today.
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