Scientists from the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) have announced that LED light, such as that emitted from digital screens, could be permanently damaging the eyes of users – which is to say: Everyone. Retinal damage and vision loss are the primary concerns of this research, which is mostly concerned with the manner in which blue light – the most reactive short-wavelength light emitted from digital devices and compact fluorescent light (CFLs) bulbs – affects the retinal cells of the eye.
It has been shown that the blue light from LED screens and CFLs damage retinal cells leading to significant cellular death, which could be causing blindness. Because the drastic increase in digital screen use over the last two decades, increased rates of premature blindness may be right around the corner. Researchers have shown that the intensity of blue light exposure is certainly enough to be concerned about, especially in children, who, because of their shorter arms, are exposed to a higher intensity than adults, who are farther away from their screens. It is estimated that the average child aged 8-18 spends about 7.5 hours a day using a digital device, with long periods of uninterrupted exposure to unfiltered blue light radiation. There are two factors here, which must be considered.
One, there is the matter of the unfiltered blue light. There are researched blue light reducing filters, which can be used over digital screens that help mitigate the negative effects of this light radiation by turning blue light into frequencies more akin to sunlight. In fact, certain local authorities in Spain have ruled that protective filters must be used in schools.
Another factor in this conversation is the sheer amount of uninterrupted time most people spend staring at digital screens. We are simply not allowing our eyes time to rest from the constant exposure and also strain – which is a secondary component, not specifically addressed in this research, but is well documented.
Dr. Sánchez-Ramos and her research group are advocating a 20-20-20 rule:
- for every 20 minutes you stare at a digital screen, turn your gaze 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more to let the eye muscles relax.
A third consideration is getting proper nutrition to support retinal integrity and regeneration. A diet high in fruits and vegetables, and low in refined or processed foods, including sugar will help ensure that adequate amounts of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants are obtained. Also, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and quality monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are needed to maintain nerve health, which is critical for vision and eye function as well. If you are concerned about your diet not providing you with proper nutrition, or find it difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day, consider consulting with a naturopathic physician for supplementation options.
Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.