EYE HEALTH IN THE DIG­I­TAL AGE

Pro­tect your eyes against blue light emit­ted from com­put­ers, cell phones, and other de­vices

Amazing Wellness - - NEED TO KNOW - By Jim String­ham, PhD

Blue

light is the por­tion of the vis­i­ble spec­trum that, when iso­lated from other wave­lengths of light, ap­pears blue. e blue wave­lengths, how­ever, can mix with other wave­lengths of light to pro­duce di er­ent col­ors—sort of like mix­ing paint. For ex­am­ple, the bright and clear white back­ground on your smart­phone, tablet, or com­puter is pro­duced by mix­ing yel­low light with a strong blue light com­po­nent. You see white, but there is a lot of blue reach­ing your eyes.

Why is this an is­sue? e por­tion of the spec­trum that we see as blue has sig­nif­i­cantly higher en­ergy than wave­lengths cor­re­spond­ing to green, yel­low, or red. Over time, this higher en­ergy has the po­ten­tial to over­work the retina (the light-sen­si­tive neu­ral tis­sue in the back of the eye), pro­duce ex­ces­sive un­sta­ble oxy­gen (i.e., free rad­i­cals), and ul­ti­mately dam­age the retina and lead to all sorts of other is­sues. Once the pho­tore­cep­tor neu­rons in the retina are dam­aged or die, they can­not be re­paired or re­gen­er­ated.

Cell death is the worstcase sce­nario. But there are sev­eral other health-re­lated is­sues that arise from ex­po­sure to ex­ces­sive blue light, es­pe­cially long-term ex­po­sure from screens. ese is­sues in­clude eye­strain, eye fa­tigue, headache, neck strain, blurry vi­sion, and re­duced sleep qual­ity. e in­ci­dence of these com­plaints is so high these days that there is now a con­di­tion called Com­puter Vi­sion Syn­drome (CVS) that con­soli- dates these symp­toms un­der one di­ag­nos­tic um­brella.

Most dig­i­tal de­vices made to­day mix blue light with yel­low to pro­duce a rich, vivid white color ap­pear­ance. Stud­ies show that blue light is the most ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a per­son squint their eyes be­cause of dis­com­fort. It would ap­pear, there­fore, that sev­eral of the symp­toms of CVS may be pro­duced from long-term (more than 4 hours a day) low-level squint­ing of the eyes. Squint­ing can pro­duce eye­strain and eye fa­tigue, and can lead to ten­sion headaches.

So, what can we do to re­duce the neg­a­tive out­comes as­so­ci­ated with ex­ces­sive blue light ex­po­sure from screens? Sur­pris­ingly, your diet can make a huge di er­ence. Spe­cific nutri­ents called lutein and zeax­an­thin, which are found pri­mar­ily in leafy-green veg­eta­bles and other col­ored fruits and veg­eta­bles, are found in high con­cen­tra­tions in the retina, where they serve two very im­por­tant func­tions:

. ey are ex­tremely po­tent an­tiox­i­dants, which en­ables them to pro­tect the retina from dam­age, and . By virtue of their yel­low color, lutein and zeax­an­thin ab­sorb blue light be­fore it reaches the retina. Taken to­gether, these nutri­ents pro­tect the retina and re­duce the chance of devel­op­ing sev­eral symp­toms of CVS.

Re­search shows that af­ter six months of lutein and zeax­an­thin sup­ple­men­ta­tion, there were sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in vis­ual per­for­mance, eye­strain, eye fa­tigue, vis­ual per­for­mance in bright light con­di­tions, and sleep qual­ity. A sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in ten­sion headache fre­quency was also noted with lutein and zeax­an­thin sup­ple­men­ta­tion. is study was placebo-con­trolled, and the sub­jects tak­ing the placebo ex­pe­ri­enced none of these ben­e­fits. e sup­ple­ments con­tained 20 mg lutein and 4 mg zeax­an­thin, but lower doses have been found to make a di er­ence with long-term sup­ple­men­ta­tion. Con­sis­tently con­sum­ing lutein and zeax­an­thin ap­pears to be the key, send­ing a mes­sage to your body that there is plenty cir­cu­lat­ing in the blood­stream, and that de­po­si­tion in other tis­sues (e.g., the retina) can take place.

e dose used in the study noted above is equiv­a­lent to con­sum­ing about two bowls of spinach. In­deed, eat­ing lots of leafy-green veg­gies and other col­ored fruits and veg­eta­bles will have the same e ects as those found with sup­ple­ments.

e trou­ble is, most of us do not con­sume two bowls of spinach per day—cer­tainly not on a con­sis­tent ba­sis. In fact, the most re­cent data on the mat­ter in­di­cate that the av­er­age Amer­i­can adult con­sumes only about 1.5 mg of lutein daily. We are sim­ply not eat­ing enough healthy, col­ored fruits and veg­gies, and this pre­vents us from ob­tain­ing enough of these cru­cial nutri­ents.

Smart­phones, tablets, and com­puter screens aren’t go­ing away any­time soon. In an im­me­di­ate sense, wear­ing spe­cial tinted lenses that screen out much of the blue light emit­ted by screens can help. Both con­tact and spec­ta­cle lenses have been de­vel­oped for this pur­pose. Keep in mind, how­ever, that lenses do not pro­vide the an­tiox­i­dant ben­e­fit to the retina, and they also tend to skew color vi­sion. So, if what you are work­ing on in­volves an ac­cu­rate per­cep­tion of color, lenses may not be the best choice.

e best long-term so­lu­tion? Con­sump­tion of lutein and zeax­an­thin, whether via diet or sup­ple­men­ta­tion, is a proven way to im­prove eye health and re­duce the in­ci­dence of CVS symp­toms.

Given that the av­er­age Amer­i­can adult spends roughly 11 hours a day in front of screens, the avail­abil­ity of a safe, nat­u­ral way to com­bat the po­ten­tial for un­de­sir­able e ects is com­fort­ing.

Stud­ies show that blue light is the most ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a per­son squint their eyes be­cause of dis­com­fort, and that squint­ing can pro­duce eye­strain and eye fa­tigue, and lead to ten­sion headaches.

did you 'now? The av­er­age Amer­i­can adult spends roughly 11 hours a day in front of screens.

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