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The Computer You Love Is Blinding You

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

Computers are a part of our lives and we have come to depend on them for everything from keeping track of appointments, spreadsheets, communication with peers, social media, publicity and so much more. How could we exist without them? But surprising new research is telling us that this same wonderful device is blinding us, robbing us of our sight stealthily.

Would you still be so cavalier about using it for up to 10 to 12 hours a day or more? What is your eyesight worth to you? Are you willing to take a chance on losing it just because you use a computer?

No one ever suspected that using computers as much as we do on a daily basis would prove injurious to us in any way other than RSI of wrists or hands. Anyone learning typing would have been told to give your hands a rest and shake them vigorously every 20 minutes or so to prevent hand fatigue. Are they still doing that in typing classes? No one said anything about computer screens.

Computers cell phones tablets and other electronic devices that use screens, such as book readers, too, emit damaging short wave blue light. The light affects both the retina and the photoreceptors in the eye and can change their ability to function over time.

In studies performed with mice, there was massive cell death and shrinkage of certain proteins in the eye, leaking and rupturing of fine capillaries in the retina, swelling of the retina, developments which indicated a swelling, changes in certain protein, and damage to a specific barrier in the retina.

The retina, as you know, is the screen on which everything is projected that is presented to the eye. It is an extremely delicate structure and can easily be damaged. Specific types of cells in the retina, the rods and cones, can also be damaged my blue light. A protein that is affected by this light is especially damaging to the rods which are the structures which see black-and-white. The cones are the ones that see color.

Startling associations have been found in terms of blue light and its effect on the eye. One of these is the fact that blue light appears to be involved in a certain type of eye cancer where it markedly increased the rate of cancer cell growth and proliferation. Low light conditions are particularly damaging in terms of blue light. The reason that low light is more damaging is because the pupil opens wider under these conditions and a larger amount of blue light enters the eye and hits the retina.

For this reason, researchers recommend that other light conditions be in any room, specifically a darkened one, where computers, smartphones or other handheld devices are being used. These devices should not be the only source of light in the room.

Damage to the retina by blue light has been found to be specifically dangerous for children ages one through nine. We know that young children have a tendency to become unsettled on car trips or in restaurants where electronic devices are used to keep them occupied and this provides an additional instance of exposing them to more eye damage.

Why are children under the age of nine more vulnerable to blue light damage? It is because they do not have sufficient pigment in their eyes to protect them. Babies, in particular, are extremely vulnerable to this type of damage. Is it a good idea to start your toddlers out on computers or other electronic devices when they are at higher risk of eye damage? Scientists have also suggested that blue light can slow down and retard the development of sensitive cells in the retina of the eye.

Which eye colors are most at risk of damage? In adults who have blue or pale colored eyes, they are more susceptible to damage from blue light than persons with darker eyes. Blue-eyed persons are highly vulnerable to both cataracts and macular degeneration.

The recommendation is that anyone using a computer screen for any length of time should have a special screen filter that will protect them by filtering out blue light. These are available at many online stores. For cell phones there are apps and for tablets as well.

Doesn't it make sense to protect yourself from a danger of which you are absolutely unaware but which may cause you to lose some or all of your vision? I’ve already ordered three blue-light filters for my computers.

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