Everyone knows you should protect your eyes from UV light from the sun by wearing sunglasses. But what is there to protect your eyes from high energy blue light projected from LED/CFL lights? We are constantly bombarded with high levels of high energy blue light on a daily basis from digital devices, such as computers, televisions, smart phones, tablets; headlights on cars and even artificial lights at work & home.
Over time, this may affect our vision. And this isn’t just a concern for older people, children and young adults who have a lot of screen time between school, work and home should be thinking about the impact of this blue light on their long term vision. Although LED lights may be great for the environment, they aren’t necessarily great for maintaining optimal eye health.
But good news, there are nutrients that may help! Read on to find out how you can protect your eyes from high energy blue light.
Why is high energy blue light a concern for eye health?
- Blue light can be harmful to the eyes, as it is the highest energy wavelength of visible light, and is able to penetrate to the back of the eye (where the retina and the macula are located), through the eyes natural protective filters. The macula is the section of the eye responsible for sharp sight and visual acuity, and this may be damaged by the high energy blue light reaching the macula promoting free radical formation.
- Short term effects may lead to eye strain and fatigue, and long term exposure may cause a progressive decline of visual function.
- As well as adults who have lots of screen time, children are particularly at risk as they are heavy users of digital devices emitting blue light between school, homework and play; and their developing eyes don’t yet have adequate amounts of protective pigments in the eyes to help filter out the excess of harmful blue light.
- Too much blue light exposure, particularly from lighting at home and in the bedroom, can supress melatonin production and delay deep REM sleep, affecting your sleep cycle. This also goes for your devices at home. Remember switch off all technology that emits blue light 1 hour before bed. Yes this means no last minute check of Facebook or Instagram!
How can Lutein and Zeaxanthin help?
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin are carotenoids (Vitamin A derivatives) found naturally in the yellow/orange/red pigments in plants, where they absorb excess light energy and protect the plants from too much sunlight, and harmful rays such as blue light. Sunlight itself contains on average 25-30% blue light.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin play a similar role in the macula and lens of the eye. They form a yellow pigment in the macula, which exerts a natural filter or internal ‘sunglasses’ like effect, against harmful blue light reaching the retina.
- These carotenoids provide nutritional support for the macula region of the eye, and support eye health by acting as powerful antioxidants, quenching free radicals that may collect here as a result of excess blue light exposure.
- The body cannot synthesise Lutein and Zeaxanthin, so they must be derived from a dietary or nutritional supplement source.
Dietary sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin:
Dietary sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin include egg yolk, corn, kiwi fruit, grapes, orange capsicum, orange juice, zucchini and squash. Lutein is found in highest amounts in corn, whilst Zeaxanthin primary source is orange/yellow capsicum.
If you are worried you aren’t obtaining sufficient amounts of Lutein and Zeaxanthin from your diet, you might consider trying a supplement to support eye health. Adequate dosage for macular protection include 6-20mg of Lutein, and 2-5mg Zeaxanthin daily. Most supplements for eye health will contain other nutrients such as Vitamin C, Selenium and Zinc, which have an antioxidant effect and support general eye health.
Other handy tips to minimise blue light exposure:
- Try and limit your digital device use, particularly before bed. Having a digital device free time 1-2 hrs before bed will ensure your body is able to produce the melatonin it needs for a healthy night’s sleep.
- People staring at their device for long periods of time tend to blink less, so be aware and blink more when using digital devices, as this helps to keep the eye lubricated, and avoid eye strain.
- Give your eyes a break and follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes stare at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This activates your distance vision allowing your eyes to ‘reset’.
Your eye health is extremely important. Make sure you have regular check-ups at your optometrist and speak to them about ways to reduce your exposure to blue light and keep your eyes in tip top shape!