By Sarah Slater
Prolonged exposure to the blue light emitted from smart phones and laptops can trigger poisonous molecules which could lead to blindness, a leading eye specialist is warning.
By the age of 20, a person’s lens of their eye yellows and becomes a natural, though imperfect, absorber of light.
It helps protect the retina from damage by near-UV radiation.
The lens also provides partial but imperfect protection to the retina from blue light.
However, youths under 20-years-old and especially very young children, have little or no yellowing of the lens.
Therefore, any UV or blue light which enters the eye is unfiltered and strikes the retina at full-strength exposing not only the retina, but the lens to damage.
Don Stack, a leading optometrist who runs specialist clinics in Dublin and who specialises in the damage he claims is as a result of overexposure to blue light said that he is experiencing a noticeable increase in the footfall of patients complaining of related eye problems.
“Eye strain, dry eye and macular degeneration which means a loss of vision, are some of the results from staring at a computer, laptop, TV or phone for too long,” said Mr Stack.
“Employees working longer hours and the use of digital devices has exploded so we are expecting some effect or changes to the eye.
"There is also widespread evidence of the explosion in shortsightedness or myopia.
“I see it every day onsite within companies, as employees are working longer hours and typical with double monitors on their desks.
"Most authorities now believe that the near-UV radiation absorbed throughout life by a person’s lens is a contributing factor to ageing and senile cataract (in the eye).
“There is an increase in the footfall of adults and parents of children complaining about this.”
Recent research by the University of Toledo in the US has revealed that prolonged exposure to blue light triggers poisonous molecules to be generated in the eye’s light-sensitive cells that can cause macular degeneration which is an incurable condition that affects the middle part of vision.
Blue light has a shorter wavelength and more energy which can gradually cause damage to the eyes.
Dr Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, added: “We are being exposed to blue light continuously and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it.
“The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type. That is when the real damage occurs.”
Macular degeneration, which affects around 2.4% of the adult population here, is a common condition among those in their 50s and 60s that results in significant vision loss.
Mr Stack added: “We have been supplying Bluecontrol lenses in our onsite corporate work for several years, aware that the risk to eyes from blue light is a real possibility.
“I suspect there will be more research such as these recent findings by Dr Ajith and her team.
"Perhaps in a few years time, we will be as informed above the chronic exposure to blue light, as we are currently about the effects of excessive UV exposure.”