We look at our telephones, computers and other electronics countess times each day. Have you ever stopped to think what this does to your eyes? Recent research seems to indicate that it may contribute to your risk of macular degeneration, not to mention that it can also cause eye strain, headaches and dry eye, to name a few.
Macular degeneration does not have a cure and is a leading cause of vision loss. It is estimated that up to 11 million people have some form of macular degeneration and this number is expected to double by 2050, according to the National Eye Institute. The macula is the anatomical location in the center of the human eye where the vision is best. Without this central area, it is hard to see anything with clarity. Reading and other visually demanding tasks become extremely difficult, if not impossible, if our macula is damaged or diseased. Because there is no cure for macular degeneration, it is very important that we learn to lower our risk and prevent damage to this important area of our eye.
There are many things that contribute to macular degeneration. Broadly, there are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. For example, a non-modifiable factor that contributes to macular degeneration is age; we can’t change it. A modifiable factor, on the other hand, is something we can change, like smoking. Smoking has been shown, in many studies, to increase the risk for developing macular degeneration and other studies have shown that quitting decreases risk.
New research seems to indicate that high energy light, blue light, can damage retinal cells in the macula. Accumulated damage over a lifetime is a modifiable risk factor for the development of macular degeneration. Interestingly, all of our phones and other electronics now run of LEDs, which happen to contain more high energy blue light than older light sources. The sun, of course, has blue light, too, and at higher levels than your phone, but how often do you look at your phone each day? How many hours are you on the computer? Many of us put on sunglasses or hats to protect our eyes from the sun, but what do you do to protect your eyes from your electronics? What can you do?
There are many things you can do! At our office, we commonly encourage people to get “blue blocking” coatings put on their clear everyday glasses. There are even materials that will now block blue light without a special coating. These glasses appear perfectly normal to anyone looking at them but they can help protect you from blue light. These are simple solutions that can help protect the macula from harmful rays, day or night. We also commonly recommend special vitamins that have been shown, in many studies, to aid the body’s natural protection from high energy blue light.
So, yes, our electronics probably contribute to our lifetime risk for macular degeneration, but you can do something about it. Remember, prevention is the best medicine, so make sure you are protected! FBN
By Dr. Chris McQuivey
Visit us at eyecareassociatesonline.com to learn more about your family’s eye health.
Dr. McQuivey joined Eye Care Associates in the summer of 2010. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience at Brigham Young University and went on to graduate with his doctor of optometry degree from The Ohio State University College of Optometry. Eye Care Associates, 940 N Switzer Canyon Dr., # 101, Flagstaff, Ariz., 86001. For more information, call 928-774-7949 or eyecareassociatesonline.com.