Toxic Effect of Artificial Light on the Eyes and Body

The importance of light cannot be overemphasized. Typically, it is the major component that is essential for our existence. It is influential in our normal sleep cycle by monitoring our circadian rhythm. Several methods are been devised at the wintertime to balance up for little available sunlight. (1)

In the primitive days, our ancestors start their day and ended it with the rise and fall of the sun, which harmonizes perfectly with their circadian rhythm. Today, artificial lights have taken over, which your body has also adjusted too. In the early part of the day, bright sunlight rich in blue-light signals to your body that it’s time to wake up. Nighttime, as the sun sets, the darkness indicates to the body it’s time to sleep. In modern days, computers, tablets, LED lights, televisions, and smartphones produce light when in use. These lights may not have much intensity like the sunlight but the long period of usage makes the buildup to have a toxic effect on the eyes and the entire body. Your body absorbs these blue light and it becomes disorganized as a result of absorbing this light at a time of day when it should be dark and be asleep. Exposure to artificial light poses a big threat to your health which is not taken seriously by the people of this generation. (2)

All light-producing handheld devices (such as smartphones, laptops) contains blue light which may be toxic for your eyes and the body as a whole. It has been proven by Scientist at the University of Toledo how blue light produced from your digital appliances can possibly cause macular degeneration – one of the foremost causal of impaired vision in the U.S. (3)

Ajith Karunarathne, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Toledo’s department of chemistry and biochemistry in a released statement said; “It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina”. The photoreceptor cell in the retina dies which results in macular degeneration. The role of the photoreceptor is to pick images and transfer them to the brain through a cell called retinal. The retinal is activated by blue light and results in several chemical reactions. Such reactions emanating from the eye can be quite harmful and toxic to the photoreceptor cell by destroying them. When these photoreceptor cells are dead, there’s no more rejuvenation. (4)

What did the study find?

When the research team placed the retinal in cells of other body organs like cancer cells, heart cells, and neurons; the retinal became integrated into these cells. The retina-enhanced cells died when it was introduced to blue light. If the cells were free from retinal while exposed to blue light, they were fine and vice versa. (5)

“No activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light,” Karunarathne said. “The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type.” (4)

Retinal doesn’t only move within the eye. It flows through the entire body, which shows that the toxins picked up will spread all over the body. Although the findings show that the accumulation of blue light in the retinal can destroy human eye cells, the research was performed in a laboratory, and not on real human eyes. (5)

They carried out the research to know the mystery behind how this blue light causes cell death — they are uncertain if this takes place in the eye directly. In a write up he released on his university site, “We caution the public that our research doesn’t indicate if light from digital devices and screens causes impaired visions” He continues, “If blue light from these devices and screens truly causes similar levels of toxins is a question yet to be answered and is still under study.” (4)

Can Digital Displays emit toxins to the eyes or body?

Digital devices or products like computer screens, smartphones, tablets, and similar devices emit blue light. Their screens expose your eyes to blue light. The long term effects of screen exposure, the length of hours spent on looking at them and close proximity poses a big threat to eye health. Although there is no concrete scientific proof that blue light from digital devices causes damage to your eyes, most ardent users of these digital devices complain of eye fatigue and discomfort. Therefore, too much light for a longer period can unarguably be harmful. (6)

In another study…

“Research has proven that dry eyes can also occur from the blue light produced by these devices. Over time, the more you use your device, the less you blink and thus leading to dry eyes”, says Bevels OD, founder of Elite Dry Eye Spa in Tucson, Arizona. “The after-effect allows the tears to vaporize faster, leaving the cornea to dry out.” A number of technology industries have provided a possible solution to this dry eye problem. Right now, apple provides the “night shift” setting on their phones while Samsung created a “blue light filter” to reduce the intensity of blue light that is coming from their smartphones’ screen. (3)

Other Harmful Effect on the Body

Artificial light can also affect the physical state of the body. A lot of physical discomforts can be incurred from to usage of digital devices. (7)

These include

  • blurred vision, (7)
  • headache, (7)
  • eyestrain, (7)
  • fatigue, (7)
  • difficulty focusing, (7)
  • Shoulder and neck pain. (7)

All these are caused by the usage of digital devices. The cause of these uncomfortable states can be traced to the conditions around the usage of your appliances, it might not be the digital gadget itself. (7)

How to Reduce Toxic Effect When Exposed to Artificial Screen Light

Here are few solutions provided for you to improve the condition of your eyes.

  • Go on a break consistently: Take a walk around for a minute, meditate. Carry out another task that does not need to be done on a computer or using other artificial lights. (7)
  • Good positioning when using your device: the top of the screen should be below your eye level and slightly tilted away from you at an angle of 10 -20 degrees. Downward gaze reduces stress on your eye muscles. (7)
  • Always examine your eyes: evaluate your eyes to be sure there’s no underlying vision problem, using a computer with such a problem may aggravate the issue. (7)
  • Ensure the digital screen is always clean.  Dust and other dirt might buildup on due to static charges on the screen, which may sore your eyes. (7)
  • Avoid drying of eyes. There are eye lubricants and humidifiers that can be used to moisturize the eyes if you will be sitting in front of a computer for long hours. Seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist about choosing the right eye lubricants. (7)
  • Balance your light sources. You can regulate your screen brightness with that of the room. Also, balance the lights from the desk lamps to avoid reflecting on your screen. Adjust the window blinds to regulate reflections from outside. (7)

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Alex Woodward