New Studies Share How Blue Light Speeds Up Blindness

Optics Manufacturers Pennsylvania

Most of us spend a majority of our day up-close and personal with our devices.

Whether it’s working long days on our computers, watching a movie on our tablets or texting and checking our Facebook on our iPhone. From the minute we wake up to the moment our heads hit the pillow (and even long after too), it’s become totally normal for our eyes to be glued to these devices for hours each day. Sure, this type of consumption may be hurting our social skills, but it’s time to really start focusing on our physical health as well.

Studies have shown that the blue light beaming from smartphones and tablets are damaging our vision and accelerating blindness, starting as early as 50-60 years old. With a shorter wavelength and more energy compared to other colors, blue light’s effect may not come as much of a surprise (for the same reason we’re told not to look directly at the sun), but research is starting to provide us with information on how exactly this damage happens in hopes of developing new therapies to slow the process.


Prolonged exposure to blue light causes a “toxic” chemical reaction in the retinal molecules that kills off photoreceptor cells. These cells don’t regenerate in the eye, so once they’re dead, they will never come back.  “We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said. “You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see,” he explained. “Photoreceptors are useless without retinal, which is produced in the eye.”


Karunarathne also experimented with introducing retinal molecules to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and more. When exposed to blue light, these cells died, but only in combination with retinal. Either unit on their own had no effect on the cells.


He reports that the real damage occurs with age, as a person’s immune system is suppressed and unable to fight the retinal and blue light’s attack. This is due to a decreased amount of alpha tocopherol, a vitamin E derivative and natural antioxidant in the eye that has the ability to stop the cells from dying.


In recent years, more companies, including Apple, Amazon, and Google have been introducing light filters to limit the exposure of blue light to the user. Features such as “Night Mode” allow you to adjust the display to warmer tones. However, it’s still important to advise patients to limit their cell phone or tablet use in the dark and during the evening hours.


The National Sleep Foundation also shares the negative effects of blue light on a user’s sleep, as it causes the suppression of the body’s ability to create melatonin, the hormone that tells the body when it’s time to sleep and wake up. They recommend putting devices away at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

With two million new cases of age-related macular degeneration reported every year, the goal for researchers is to try and minimize blue light as one of the causes in the future through new remedies like special eye drops.  “By learning more about the mechanisms of blindness in search of a method to intercept toxic reactions caused by the combination of retinal and blue light,” Karunarathne explains, “we hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world.”


Feldman, D. (2018, August 13). Blue Light Speeds BlindnessThe Optical Vision Site. Retrieved August 15, 2018, from theopticalvisionsite.com
Llona, C. M. (2018, August 13). Blue light from phone screens precipitate blindness, study finds. Retrieved August 15, 2018, from foxnews.com