Blue Light Dangers: The Hidden Cost of Screen Time on Your Eyes

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Blue light, the high energy visible light from digital devices, has been increasingly recognized as hazardous over the past decade. While some blue light exposure is inevitable in the modern world, research shows that overexposure can damage the eyes and disrupt healthy circadian rhythms.  

While the focus of this article is on how blue light affects your eye health, consider also that the eyes are a direct portal into your brain, another exremely EMF sensitive organ which can be profoundly adversely affected by excessive blue light exposure. 

 

The manifold ways in which blue light harms the eye -- and mitigation strategies -- are documented below: 

 

Cornea

Studies demonstrate that blue light decreases corneal epithelial cell survival rates and triggers inflammation, oxidative damage, and cell death pathways[1][2][3]. This can exacerbate dry eye disease[4]. Topical antioxidants may help defend corneal cells from blue light-induced damage[5].  

 

 

Lens

The human lens absorbs blue light to shield the retina, but this stresses lens proteins over time, likely contributing to cataract development[6][7]. Antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the lens and help defend it from oxidative damage caused by blue light[8].  

 

Retina  

In the retina, blue light overexposure activates cell death pathways leading to photoreceptor apoptosis, inflammation, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) dysfunction[9][10]. Retinal oxidative damage and cell death from blue light involves upregulation of VEGF and inflammatory cytokines[11]. Dietary antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the macula to help filter high energy blue light[12].  

 

Circadian Disruption  

Because blue light suppresses melatonin, excessive evening exposure disrupts circadian rhythms by shifting the master body clock and preventing critically important melatonin release[13]. This impairs sleep quality with consequences for mental and metabolic health over the long term[14].   

 

Protecting Yourself

Given the variety of pathways by which blue light damages ocular tissue, blue-blocking glasses, screen filters, and apps that shift color temperature towards the warmer end of the spectrum in the evening help reduce exposure. 

 

 

Dietary antioxidants also play a protective role. Since some blue light exposure is beneficial for eye development and circadian entrainment[15], the goal should be moderation rather than complete avoidance. Blue light should also be balanced with red light exposure. The best way to supplement with these precious rays are exposure to the rising and setting sun, at dawn and dusk. Failing that, there are a wide range of beneficial technologies available to increase red light exposure on your own schedule. You can view some of our favorite products in the Regenerate Lifestyle Center.

With smart blue light avoidance strategies, we can remain productive and preserve healthy vision and sleep patterns in the digital age. But restraint is warranted, as overexposure comes at a cost to the eyes and body. 

One last note about excessive blue light exposure. Recent research we reported on here indicates that excessive blue light exposure can actually accelerate skin aging as well, acting very similarly to excessive UVA or UVB light exposure.

 

 

Some researchers have dubbed this "digital stress," adding another reason to the list of reasons why the toxicity of blue light exposure should be taken seriously. 

 

For more information on the harms associated with excessive blue light exposure, visit our database on the subject here

 

 

For more natural approaches to reducing eye issues like macular degeneration, visit our database on the subject here.

 

 


 

References

 

[1] Zheng QX, Ren YP, Reinach PS, Xiao B, Lu HH, Zhu YR, Qu J, Chen W. Reactive oxygen species activated NLRP3 inflammasomes initiate inflammation in hyperosmolarity stressed human corneal epithelial cells and environment-induced dry eye patients. Exp Eye Res. 2015;134:133-140. 

 

[2] Lee HS, Cui L, Li Y, Choi JS, Choi JH, Li ZR, Kim GE, Choi W, Yoon KC. Correction: influence of light emitting diode-derived blue light overexposure on mouse ocular surface. PLoS One. 2016;11(11):e0167671.

 

[3] Niwano Y, Kanno T, Iwasawa A, Ayaki M, Tsubota K. Blue light injures corneal epithelial cells in the mitotic phase in vitro. Br J Ophthalmol. 2014;98(7):990-992. 

 

[4] Choi W, Lee JB, Cui L, Li Y, Li ZR, Choi JS, Lee HS, Yoon KC. Therapeutic efficacy of topically applied antioxidant medicinal plant extracts in a mouse model of experimental dry eye. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:1-10.

 

[5] Lee JB, Kim SH, Lee SC, Kim HG, Ahn HG, Li ZR, Yoon KC. Blue light-induced oxidative stress in human corneal epithelial cells: protective effects of ethanol extracts of various medicinal plant mixtures. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014;55(7):4119-4127. 

 

[6] Xie C, Li XY, Tong JP, Gu YS, Shen Y. Effects of white light-emitting diode (LED) light exposure with different correlated color temperatures (CCTs) on human lens epithelial cells in culture. Photochem Photobiol. 2014;90(4):853-859.  

 

[7] Babizhayev MA. Mitochondria induce oxidative stress, generation of reactive oxygen species and redox state unbalance of the eye lens leading to human cataract formation: disruption of redox lens organization by phospholipid hydroperoxides as a common basis for cataract disease. Cell Biochem Funct. 2011;29(3):183-206.

 

[8] Gao S, Qin T, Liu Z, Caceres MA, Ronchi CF, Chen CY, Yeum KJ, Taylor A, Blumberg JB, Liu Y, Shang F. Lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation reduces H2O2-induced oxidative damage in human lens epithelial cells. Mol Vis. 2011;17:3180-3190.

 

[9] Kim GH, Kim HI, Paik SS, Jung SW, Kang S, Kim IB. Functional and morphological evaluation of blue light-emitting diode-induced retinal degeneration in mice. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2016;254(4):705-716. 

 

[10] Jaadane I, Villalpando Rodriguez GE, Boulenguez P, Chahory S, Carré S, Savoldelli M, Jonet L, Behar-Cohen F, Martinsons C, Torriglia A. Effects of white light-emitting diode (LED) exposure on retinal pigment epithelium in vivo. J Cell Mol Med. 2017;21(12):3453-3466.

 

[11] Li H, Cai S, Gong X, Wu Z, Lyn J, Su G, Xie B. The effect of blue light on human retinal pigment epithelium cells α1D subunit protein expression and vascular endothelial growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor secretion in vitro. Zhonghua Yan Ke Za Zhi. 2014;50(11):814-819.  

 

[12] Bernstein PS, Khachik F, Carvalho LS, Muir GJ, Zhao DY, Katz NB. Identification and quantitation of carotenoids and their metabolites in the tissues of the human eye. Exp Eye Res. 2001;72(3):215-223.

 

[13] Gabel V, Reichert CF, Maire M, Schmidt C, Schlangen LJM, Kolodyazhniy V, Garbazza C, Cajochen C, Viola AU. Differential impact in young and older individuals of blue-enriched white light on circadian physiology and alertness during sustained wakefulness. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):7620.

 

[14] Scheuermaier K, Münch M, Ronda JM, Duffy JF. Improved cognitive morning performance in healthy older adults following blue-enriched light exposure on the previous evening. Behavioural Brain Research. 2018;348:267-275.  

 

[15] Rucker F, Britton S, Spatcher M, Hanowsky S. Blue light protects against temporal frequency sensitive refractive changes. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2015;56(10):6121-6131.

 

 

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