Danger of Blue Light From Screens May Be Overstated

by Dan Roberts

In view of a recent surge in media reporting about blue light damage from digital devices, it is important to remember that there is no scientific evidence that blue light from such devices causes eye damage. The sun, and full spectrum lamps which imitate the sun, are the two strongest and most common sources of blue light. Even so, the research is evenly split on whether a significant hazard exists, and by comparison, blue light intensity from screens is much less than either of those sources.

According to a recent tweet from the Academy of Ophthalmology, the discomfort some people have after looking at screens is most likely digital eyestrain. Most of us blink less when looking at screens, causing eye strain and dry eyes. That is why Dr. Khurana, MD, speaking for the AAO, recommends limiting screen time during the two to three hours before going to bed. “Many devices,” he says, “have nighttime settings that minimize blue light exposure in the evenings.”

According to Dr. Khurana, “It’s premature to take preventative action against blue light—there could be unintended consequences,” and taking preventive measures against blue light when there is no evidence of damage could be more harmful than the light itself.

One study suggests, for example, that inadequate exposure to sunlight in children could affect the growth and development of their vision. Another recent study found that lessened exposure could also increase the risk of myopia (nearsightedness) in teens and young adults.

Notwithstanding this research, some older adults may want to take the extra precaution of wearing blue blocker glasses. In her article, “Blue Light and Macular Degeneration”, Lylas Mogk, M.D., provides good information about making that choice.

Warnings of impending danger from environmental exposure should always be viewed with a certain amount of healthy skepticism until well-supported evidence can be presented. Instead of avoiding digital screens altogether, it may be prudent to simply follow sensible practices like limiting screen time, taking periodic breaks, and taking advantage of light-filtering options.