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Blue Light From Phones, Tablets Speeds Up Blindness

Aug 12, 2018 07:34 PM EDT
Blue Light
Blue light from mobile phones and tablets trigger the death of photoreceptor cells necessary to see, according to a new study.
(Photo : Krzysztof Kamil | Pixabay)

Modern humans are on their phones nearly every waking moment, but effects of this habit could be catastrophic, especially to the eyes.

Blue light, which emanates from the sun as well as the screens of digital devices, is the reason for the devastating results of gadgets on the sense of sight.

How Blue Light Kills Vision

According to a report from the University of Toledo, blue light exposure speeds up the process of macular degeneration, which is one of the most common causes of blindness in the United States.

Macular degeneration is the death of the photoreceptor cells in the eye's retina. It's an incurable condition that leads to a significant loss of vision and usually begins in people in their 50s and 60s. These cells require retinal molecules to detect light, signaling images to the brain. Without these molecules, "seeing" isn't possible even with the photoreceptors.

In the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers reveal that blue light triggers the retina to prompt the production of poisonous chemical molecules in the photoreceptor cells.

"If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signaling molecule on the membrane dissolves," Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student researcher, explains in a statement. "Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they're dead, they're dead for good."

The harmful effects of the retinal and blue light are universal. Introduced to other cell types such as cancer cells, heart cells, and neurons, the combination managed to kill these cells as well.

What To Do To Combat The Devastating Effects

The eye is equipped with a natural antioxidant molecule called alpha-tocopherol, which prevents the death of the photoreceptor cells.

The problem is, as people get older, the immune system is unable to function as efficiently, and this naturally occurring molecule begins to wane in its protective properties.

"It's no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye's retina," Dr. Ajith Karunarathne of the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry says, adding that the team is hoping that their study's findings can eventually pave the way for methods such as new eye drops to slow down macular degeneration.

For now, people are encouraged to avoid using their gadgets in the dark. Slipping on a pair of sunglasses that filter out UV and blue light can also be an option.

Dr. John Payton, a visiting professor at the university, says that some mobile phone companies are starting to produce blue light filters for the screens.

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