4 Ways You Didn't Know You Were Damaging Your Eyes
We all know that personal health is important, and your eyes are no exception. We do our best to protect our eyes and stay healthy. We spend most of our day either in harsh blue light, working on our laptop, staring at our smartphones or in the sun with no eye protection. It’s no surprise that it is harder than ever to keep our eyes healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 12 million people over 40 in the U.S. have vision impairment, and around 61 million U.S. adults are at high risk for major vision loss. Beyond genetics and age, there are several factors to consider when looking into the health of your eyes.
1) Computer Time
Whether we work in an office or not, we spend a great amount of our lives looking at a computer screen. This includes young children, college students, young professionals, medical professionals and a wide range of other individuals. With dry and irritated eye being the biggest symptom, it’s easy to overlook the concerning long-term effects on your eyes.
What are the solutions to something like this? We all need a computer for most things in our life. Just like with any functional necessity, we need to use it in the safest way.
- Lower the brightness or color spectrum on your computer screens.
- Check your surrounding lighting to make sure it’s not creating a harsh contrast in brightness for your eyes. This can include different level lumens or color spectrum in your workspace lighting.
- Take several moments an hour to look at a horizon. This will allow your eyes to naturally readjust. If you do not have a window near your workspace, try looking down a hallway or at expanding spaces.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) has defined this occurrence as: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
2) Smartphones and Tablets
When you’re not on your computer you’re usually on your cell phone or tablet. These screens have a very high blue spike in their light spectrum. This is because these screens need to be visible, even in bright environments. "Blue light has less energy than UV [light], but it penetrates deeper into the eye than ultraviolet rays, reaching the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye," explains Gary Heiting.
Dr. Heiting is an Doctor of Optometry (O.D.): He has more than 30 years’ experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry.
Our devices are a part of our daily life. Here are a couple ways to make sure your devices and the light they emit is working for you, not hurting you.
- Most devices have a grey scale you can switch on. This allows the screen to still be visible, but with a digital filter over the light. This is to block out some of the blue light, or rather balance it.
- Just like with your computers, take a brake every now and then to look at the horizon. This will allow your eyes to readjust and not be strained by prolonged focused dilation of the retina.
- Blue light glasses have the UV protections of sunglasses, without the tint. These can be a great option for those with lighter eye colors, or who are more sensitive to light overall.
This one might be a bit of common sense, but there is more to it than what you might think. People assume that all sunglasses have UV protection. This is not always the case. Outside of being stylish, even those sunglasses that are as dark as they come, might not being doing much to actually protect your eyes. Don’t give up on finding the perfect pair of sunglasses. The only thing worse than cheap sunglasses, are none at all. If you’re outside during the day you should have sunglasses on, even in the colder months. Long term sun exposure to your eyes can lead to pterygium, various forms of cancer and cataracts.
Pterygium: A growth that starts on the clear tissue of the eye that can spread to the cornea.
- Make sure you are wearing sunglasses
- Make sure your sunglasses have 100% UV protection
- Make sure your sunglasses correctly fit your face, to prevent side damage to your eyes.
- Wear sunglasses during the day. Even if the sun is not out, or it is not bright out. Your eyes can still be damaged from the sun, even if it is not visibly bright out.
4) Everyday Lighting
With the choices of lighting that come to mind, we don’t usually think of the color of the lighting. We usually think of the brightness and what will save us the most money. It is no question that LED lighting has revolutionized the way we use lighting. With any new technology, there are always unknowns. Most modern lighting is highly focused on the blue end of the color spectrum. This is creating an encompassing issue where we are constantly bombarded with blue light. Blue light is not inherently bad. It is the key color in light that wakes us up, and keeps us alert. Anything in excess is bad for you and your body. Think about what lights you have in your home? Does your lighting create a warm and hospitable place for you to recover from your day? Most household lighting is keeping norepinephrine active in our brain. Norepinephrine is a catecholamine with multiple roles including as a hormone and a neurotransmitter. As a stress hormone, norepinephrine affects parts of the brain where attention and responding actions are controlled. Norepinephrine also underlies the fight-or-flight response, directly increasing heart rate, triggering the release of glucose from energy stores, and increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle. Anyone who’s pulled an all-night project or chronically works late, knows the feeling of mental exhaustion. You’re burning yourself out, for no reason. It would be like revving your engine as high as it goes. If you’re not in gear, you’re just burning yourself out for no reason. The light over your head is keeping your brain in work mode. This is a major contributor to chemical chaos going on inside your brain.
There is no one solution to this, as it is just as much a social problem as a physical one. There are ways you can help your mental stamina work for you, and not just in the light above your head.
- Try to look for lower lumen lightbulbs for living spaces and bedrooms.
- Invest in solistic lighting. Solistic lighting is engineered to emit light that is even across the color spectrum. This can allow you to better functionally control what mode your brain is in.
- When installing new lighting, try to install dimmers. These can allow direct control over the lighting.