3 Truths About Blue Light and Eye Health

Tori Schmitt, MS, RDN, LD07/30/19

What do blue light, the sun, and your diet have in common? Your eyes. That's right! Blue light, the sun, and omega-3s all influence the health of your eyes.

Whether you are indoors or outside, light surrounds you -- so much light that it is likely that until your head hits the pillow at night, you may be in the presence of light all day long. From your morning walk or drive in the sunlight outdoors, to the time in front of your computer at the office or your television at home, light helps you see and complete your day-to-day tasks.

However, too much light can also be damaging to your eyes. According to eye doctors, when someone experiences too much exposure to UV light from the sun over time, certain eye conditions like cataracts and retinal degeneration may be more likely.1-2 Plus, too much exposure to blue light – the light emitted from sources including electronic devices like televisions, tablets, computers and phones– might be an essential contributor in the development of age-related macular degeneration.3

There are several truths about blue light and eye health – here are three to keep top of mind.

  1. Wear protective glasses and hats while outdoors.
    UV protective lenses on sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats can help block some of the sun’s rays from directly hitting your eyes – even when you are sitting in the shade or outside in the snow.1,4-5 For better protection, be sure to wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays.4

  2. Minimize blue light by blocking it and by reducing screen time.
    It can be hard to turn off all electronics all day long, but minimizing their use is imperative! Using screen filters for your devices or glasses with yellow-tinted lenses can help reduce your exposure to blue light, as can using the "night shift" mode on some of your electronic devices.5 Using "night shift" emits colors from the warmer end of the color spectrum and less blue light, which may cause less damage to the eye's surface.6 As a bonus, blocking blue light may also promote better sleep!  Research demonstrates that exposure to blue light in the evening can increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and can reduce deep sleep.7-8

  3. Eat well for your eyes.
    Your teacher was right when she told you that carrots were good for your eyes, but did she tell you that omega-3s support the health of your eyes, too?

    Carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin – found in foods including carrots, corn, yellow peppers, egg yolks, salmon, and dark green vegetables – are a component of the macular pigment. There, they help filter blue light and serve as an antioxidant.9 Carotenoids have been demonstrated to significantly improve measures of visual performance and reduce indicators of excessive screen time, including headache, eye strain, and eye fatigue.10

    At the same time, omega-3s can help support eye health, too. In the eye, DHA supports the cells of the retina and is crucial to healthy vision.11

In the end, enjoy the sun and enjoy the time spent with electronic devices.  Moreover, when it comes to protecting and supporting the health of your eyes, consider wearing protective gear, minimizing blue light, and choosing a healthy eating pattern filled with important nutrients.

Subscribe to the life’sDHA YouTube Channel to hear what other experts are saying about the health benefits of DHA omega-3.

References

  1. van Kuijk FJ. Effects of ultraviolet light on the eye: role of protective glasses. Environ Health Perspect. 1991;96:177–184. doi:10.1289/ehp.9196177
  2. Tubert D. Keep an Eye on Ultraviolet (UV) Safety. American Academy of Opthamology. 2019. Accessed June 10 2019 from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/sun
  3. Taylor HR, Muñoz B, West S, Bressler NM, Bressler SB, Rosenthal FS. Visible light and risk of age-related macular degeneration. Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 1990;88:163–178.
  4. Heiting G. UV and sunglasses: How to protect your eyes. 2019. Accessed June 17 2019 from https://www.allaboutvision.com/sunglasses/spf.htm.
  5. Blue Light and Your Eyes. Prevent Blindness. 2019. Accessed June 10 2019 from https://www.preventblindness.org/blue-light-and-your-eyes
  6. Xu WH1Qu JYChen YLZhang MC. [Influence of blue light from visual display terminals on human ocular surface]. Zhonghua Yan Ke Za Zhi. 2018 Jun 11;54(6):426-431. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.0412-4081.2018.06.008.
  7. Cajochen C , Dijk DJ , Borbély AA. Dynamics of EEG slow-wave activity and core body temperature in human sleep after exposure to bright light. Sleep 15: 337–343, 1992.
  8. Münch M , Kobialka S , Steiner R , Oelhafen P , Wirz-Justice A , Cajochen C. Wavelength-dependent effects of evening light exposure on sleep architecture and sleep EEG power density in men. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 290: R1421–R1428, 2006.
  9. Lecerf JM1Desmettre T. [Nutrition and age-related macular degeneration]. J Fr Ophtalmol. 2010 Dec;33(10):749-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jfo.2010.09.011. Epub 2010 Nov 18.
  10. Stringham JM, Stringham NT, O'Brien KJ. Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure. Foods. 2017;6(7):47. Published 2017 Jun 29. doi:10.3390/foods6070047
  11. Shindou H, Koso H, Sasaki J, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid preserves visual function by maintaining correct disc morphology in retinal photoreceptor cells. J Biol Chem. 2017;292(29):12054–12064. doi:10.1074/jbc.M117.790568

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