Killing Blue

My favorite color is down for the count. Blue might have been down longer than I realize. I’ve heard of blue blocker sunglasses a long time ago but I thought that might have just been a fad of some kind. Who knew what kind of studies there were that blame blue light for causing so much damage in the eye? I admit I’m still reading a lot of studies and articles trying to sort this out. I mean, can you look at the blue sky and ever think it’s bad? That’s what seems so wrong about this.

Let’s start with the bad news (but there is good news too). The other day I was a participant in a webinar. The topic was about this newly released product called Crizal Prevencia. Now I’m skeptical of products right off the bat because I usually only get the marketing spiel. This webinar spiel was no different. It’s a coating applied to lenses in glasses that is supposed to reduce by 20% the amount of blue light in the 415nm – 455nm range. Why is that range such a big deal? Well, that group of wavelengths is pretty near the ultraviolet wavelengths (UV-A) and you can pretty much guess something close to UV isn’t exactly considered healthy (or is it?). I’m sorry but I can just see it now. ¬†Opticians (I’m not accusing all of them) will be/are telling their customers that they need this coating because it can help prevent macular degeneration.

What is macular degeneration? It’s an eye disease in the macula, of course! The macula is this small part of our eye (in the back of our eye in the retina) that we see the best with….the 20/20 part of our vision. It’s also an age-related condition which in this case means it can occur when you’re old. UV exposure (I’ll get to blue light) apparently adds up and if you get too much of it over a life-time then you’re at greater risk of skin cancer and macular degeneration…and cataracts. I believe I read that blue light causes a cumulative effect in our retinas as well and studies show macular pigment and blue light are not very compatible. I tell ya, if it isn’t one thing that’s bad we have to go and blame the color blue now.

But there’s something more odd, but good, about blue light. Because there’s a range of other wavelengths that are still blue and some of that range is apparently beneficial. Doesn’t that just make this whole thing weird? Blue light in the range from 465nm – 495nm helps our circadian rhythm, memory and thinking. Older patients have even been told to wear glasses that allow that blue light to help with their sleep cycle. Yay for something good about blue light.

And here’s good news for those with blue eyes. Based on some studies, blondes and blue eyes are not any more prone to developing macular degeneration than¬†brown eyes. But you can also find articles reporting the opposite. Make up your minds people! It’s hard to find the definitive answers to anything sometimes. And here’s more good news (maybe). Once we get cataracts, blue wavelengths are absorbed in the cataract just like blue blocker glasses. So the studies about macular degeneration and blue are interesting to read. There just doesn’t seem to be clear explanations about how much blue light and at what age it does it’s most damage. Studies say it’s when we’re younger. Can you really imagine seeing all those kids playing soccer wearing sunglasses?

Since this article is partially about macular degeneration I wonder if we all start eating better, don’t smoke and don’t play too long at the pool everyday, will macular degeneration decline? There are genetic factors that contribute to a lot of diseases and that includes macular degeneration so we can’t eliminate that part just yet. Just don’t stare at bright lights too long and wear sunglasses and a hat and try to get your kids to as well.

Oh, will your computer users have any problems with blue light from the LCD‘s? Oh boy. Another issue for another day.

Here’s the visible spectrum again. Find your favorite shade of blue and see what wavelength it is.

spectrum

spectrum

 

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