Protecting your Eyes from Technology
From smartphones, iPads, and laptops to desktops and television, everyone in today’s society uses technology daily. Technology is a large part of our lives now and it has become something that we can’t live without. Unfortunately, the blue light emitted from these screens can be detrimental to eye health. However, since it’s nearly impossible to avoid digital screens today, it’s important to make yourself aware of the dangers and practice caution while using digital devices.
How Nutrients Protect the Macular from Blue Light Damage
It’s ironic that it’s near impossible to see in the dark, yet light is what may cause your vision to get worse. Here’s why: your eyes are a magnet for harmful blue light rays emitted from light sources, most notably from sunlight and digital screens. Every time your eyes are exposed to light, you absorb radiation that can cause oxidation and free radical damage.
Over a lifetime, this damage could accumulate and gradually take its toll on your vision. It’s like skin that’s been subjected to sunburn repeatedly over many years; the resulting damage puts you at a greater risk for severe skin damage.
As it turns out, the part of your eye most vulnerable to
harmful blue light damage is the central portion of the retina, which contains
the macula. This part of the eye plays a key role in making high resolution and
central vision possible. Over time, harmful light rays can cause the macula to
degenerate, hurting your central vision and making objects appear less crisp.
It’s not only the retina and macula that can be damaged by blue light, the lens
on your eye can suffer too. It’s no surprise that when your lenses aren’t clear
they can’t collect and focus light on the retina, which can further impair your
So how do you protect your eyes from damaging blue light rays? Your body already knows how. Your eyes have their own natural blue light protection in nature because plants use different types of pigment to reflect and absorb sun rays. These pigments, which can be red, yellow, blue or green, are called carotenoids. Researchers estimate that over 700 different carotenoids exist in nature.
However, there are only three specific ones found in significant concentration in the macula. These yellow colored antioxidant pigments are lutein and two forms of zeaxanthin called RR-zeaxanthin and RS-zeaxanthin. Together they combine to form a protective shield in the macula against harmful light rays. Lutein is most prominently found in the outer area of the macula, RR-zeaxanthin in middle area and RS-zeaxanthin in the inner or central area.
In particular, these nutrients help filter out harmful blue light before it can damage the retina and act as antioxidants to prevent oxidation damage. Unlike plants, your body doesn’t produce these nutrients, so your eyes depend on you to provide them from food and supplements. Surveys show that very few folks are getting the optimal amounts of lutein, RR-zeaxanthin and RS-zeaxanthin needed to help protect eyesight. Green vegetables are a good source of lutein… But what about zeaxanthin?
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis analyzed the lutein and zeaxanthin content in 50 commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.The researchers found that the best sources for lutein are spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, zucchini, broccoli and asparagus. For example, cooked spinach typically provides about 4.5mg of lutein per serving and cooked kale was found to provide 10.3mg of lutein per serving. However, contrary to popular belief, neither RR-zeaxanthin nor RS-zeaxanthin was found in any of these vegetables.
The only vegetables with a meaningful amount of zeaxanthin
were yellow peppers (1.6mg of RR-zeaxanthin) and to a lesser extent corn (0.2mg
of RR- zeaxanthin per ear). But even these two vegetables provide only
RR-zeaxanthin – not RS-zeaxanthin. This is because many plants don’t have the
enzymes needed to make RS-zeaxanthin. So how else can you get RR-zeaxanthin and
RS-zeaxanthin? One option is egg yolks, which provide only about 0.2mg of total
zeaxanthin per yolk. Chicken and other
meat products also have only trace amounts of zeaxanthin, therefore they only
provide minimal nutrients. The only other food rich in both RR-zeaxanthin and
RS-zeaxanthin is fish with RS-zeaxanthin being mostly in the fish skin.
There are definitely challenges to getting adequate amounts of lutein, RR-zeaxanthin and RS-zeaxanthin into your diet each day. Ideally, you want to consume about 10mg of lutein, 1mg of RR-zeaxanthin and 1mg RS-zeaxanthin daily. If you don’t regularly provide your body with these three nutrients, your eyes may be more vulnerable to blue light damage. Therefore, taking a supplement that contains these nutrients is a good “insurance policy”.
Natural forms of these nutrients can be obtained from high quality extracts of the Marigold flower. Marigolds are orange yellowish sun-loving flowers that resemble carnations. This flower uniquely contains all three of the hard to-get nutrients. While some supplements contain lutein and RR-zeaxanthin extracted from marigolds, many do not provide RS-zeaxanthin, which is more challenging (and costly) to deliver. Be sure to choose a vision supplement that contains RS-zeaxanthin as well as lutein and RR-zeaxanthin!
How to Protect your Eyes from Blue Light Emissions
Wear Blue-Light-Filtering Glasses
with causing digital eye strain, retina damage and macular degeneration, blue
light can also cause headaches and disrupted sleep patterns, which leads to
fatigue, trouble focusing and irritability. These symptoms greatly impact how
productive and happy we are, so it’s important to do anything possible to limit
your interaction with unnatural blue light emissions day and night.
Although you can’t avoid technology and blue light entirely, there are items you can use to combat blue light’s negative effects. Firstly, you can buy blue light filtering glasses, which have the ability to protect your vision by blocking and filtering out harmful ultraviolet rays and scattered blue light emissions. Blue light glasses safeguard against the wavelengths that are most harmful to your retinas while still allowing light from the beneficial light ranges.
Turn your Brightness Down
Not only does blue light radiate from
your digital screens, but its main source is actually sunlight. The amount of high
energy visible light (HEV) that digital screens give off is
relatively small compared to the amount emitted by the sun. However, direct
engagement with a digital device and a user's close distance to screens will
end up surpassing that of direct sunlight.
Interestingly, if you’re in a naturally
lit environment, it’s considered okay to have your brightness all the way up
because your eyes are already exposed to the natural blue light emissions from
the sun. Contrarily, if you are in a dark, enclosed space with little to no
natural light, it’s suggested you turn your brightness down so as to not shock
your eyes with digital blue light.
Use Night Shift Mode
Shift mode is a built in feature on smartphones and computers that changes the color temperature of
the display to the warm or cool part of the color spectrum, which reduces some
of the blue light being emitted from the screen.
At night, blue light plays tricks on your
eyes. Your brain gets confused by the bright blue light because it mimics the
brightness, ultra violet radiation and blue light emissions from the sun. This
causes your brain to stop producing melatonin, which is the chemical that
informs your body that it’s tired. Laptop, smartphone, iPad and television light
disrupt your sleep cycle when used right before bed, making it
more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s suggested to avoid using
digital devices 1-2 hours before bed in order to avoid difficulty, and if you
have to use a screen, be sure to turn on Night Shift.
Limit Screen Time
we are in the midst of the digital age, it’s almost impossible to limit screen
time when it’s the basis of your professional and personal life. We use
technology for work, school and social interactions, which means we need to
work around it, not against it.
Considering the amount of time we spend
using screens, it’s important to break up screen time if possible. For example,
try following the “20-20-20”
which suggests that you look away from the screen every 20 minutes, at
something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. It’s also suggested to massage your
eyes periodically; disrupting focus from time to time can provide lasting eye
The Pomodoro Technique is also very effective
when trying to avoid staring at a digital screens for long periods of time such
as when you’re at work or while you’re studying. The technique suggests that
you work for 25 minutes and then take a five minute break and repeat. This
allows you to be engaged for an appropriate amount of time, as well as
disengaged for an appropriate amount of time, which gives your eyes a break.
It’s been made clear that there is no
escaping digital devices in our everyday lives. However, there are multiple
things you can do to combat the negative effects that blue light has on our
eyes. By practicing these protection methods, you can preserve your eyesight
and avoid falling victim to the other side effects of blue light such as
inability to sleep, fatigue, irritability, headaches and more.