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Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Discuss Blue Light Protection with Patients

Digital devices require a lot of up close visual demand and their use is only rising.

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WITH STUDENTS AND teachers from elementary to college to professional schooling all at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, screen time has increased dramatically and will continue to consume our lives both educationally and recreationally. Tablets, gadgets, smart phones, handheld video games, and computers all require a lot of up close visual demand that can cause eye strain, eye fatigue, headaches, dry eye and sometimes even blurry vision. A recent Forbes article states, “73 percent of Generation Z uses internet connected devices to communicate with friends and family, followed by entertainment (59 percent) and gaming (58 percent).” Now, it’s more important than ever to be discussing blue light protection with our patients.

Electronic gaming (e-gaming) has been trending heavily, so every single patient that sits in our exam chair should be considered an athlete. As optometrists we need to educate our patients that “40-60 percent experience visual or ocular symptoms while viewing electronic displays for prolonged periods of time” and that dry eye symptoms from computer vision syndrome will include “eye fatigue/eye strain, ocular irritation, burning, redness and blurred or double vision,” according to two separate papers published in Ophthalmic And Physiological Optics (OPO).

High energy visible blue light (HEV) is a hot topic because its short wavelength has the potential to wreak havoc on the eyes, skin and sleep patterns. As a society, we have trouble with the inability to unplug and HEV shifts our circadian rhythm, sleep and wake cycle, because blue light triggers our brain to think it is daytime.

Environmental factors are also key. The more time we spend on devices the less likely we will be spending time outdoors. “Those who spent little time outdoors daily at 8 and 9 years of age were 40 percent more likely to develop myopia at age 15 than those who spent three hours a day or more outdoors in the summer and more than one hour daily in the winter” (Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science). The more time spent outdoors and having direct contact with sunlight is helpful for the synthesis of vitamin D as well as slowing down myopia progression. Make sure you’re telling your patients to wear protective UV blocking sunglasses when outdoors to prevent any skin cancers around the eyelids and to help protect from the harmful rays that can potentially lead to cataracts as well as pingueculas and pterygiums down the road.

There are many companies that offer coatings to help filter blue light with peak absorptions ranging anywhere between 380nm to 470nm. “Research shows these coatings decrease harmful effects by 10.6 percent to 23.6 percent while reducing symptoms associated with DVS in roughly 30 percent of patients” (PLOS ONE).

It is important to remind ALL our patients that they need to put down those electronic devices and go have fun outside and when they are back on their devices to make sure they are wearing some protective blue blocking glasses and take frequent breaks.

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Dr. Vittorio Mena is the sports vision director at Optical Academy in Clifton, NJ. He also serves as a clinical director for New Jersey’s Special Olympics Lions Club International Opening Eyes program. Dr. Mena works with athletes from the Division 1 Saint Peter’s University and has previously worked with the NY Giants. He is a member of the International Sports Vision Association and on the board of his state association. Email him at [email protected]

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