Study reveals how blue light from gadgets speeds rate of blindness

Blue light from the Sun and devices like smartphones have a damaging effect on eyes and a new study details how this damage happens. Researchers point toward macular degeneration, a disease that involves the photoreceptor cells in the retina dying. According to the study, blue light exposure causes retinal cells to produce damaging molecules within these vital photoreceptors.

The study comes out of the University of Toledo, where researchers found that shining a blue light on retinal causes them to kill photoreceptor cells, which do no regenerate. Once a photoreceptor cell is lost, it is lost forever, highlighting the importance of protecting eyes from blue light damage.

Talking about the findings is UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry assistant professor Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, who said, "We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it."

This toxic effect also impacted other cells that were introduced to retinal molecules and then exposed to blue light. Red, yellow, and green light doesn't have the same effect. "The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal," said Karunarathne. "It can kill any cell type." A type of vitamin E called alpha tocopherol, which is a natural antioxidant, was found to help prevent this cellular death.

Over time, though, as a person ages or if their immune system is suppressed, the body's ability to combat the harmful effect of blue light on photoreceptors diminishes. For this reason, macular degeneration often begins over the age of 50. However, the public is increasingly exposed to large levels of artificial blue light throughout the day from smartphones, laptop screens, and other devices, raising eye health concerns.

A growing number of tech companies have started adding blue light filter options to their devices, such as Apple and Amazon, and third-party blue light filters like F.lux are available for computers. Prescription and OTC glasses with blue light-filtering lenses can also be purchased.

SOURCE: University of Toledo