What You Need to Know about Blue-Violet Light, How It Can Harm Your Vision, and How to Protect Your Eyes

You may be aware that long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can cause permanent eye injury and disease, such as cataracts. Many products are marketed for their ability to protect eyes from UV damage: eyeglasses, sunglasses, and even contact lenses are now available with anti-UV coatings. However, you may not know that visible blue-violet light also poses a threat to your optical health. Below is more information on this menace to eyesight and what you can do to protect your eyes from being harmed:

Blue-violet light and how it affects you

Blue-violet light is defined at face value; it is the visible spectrum of light that appears in hues of violet and blue to the normal human eye. From an exact standpoint, any light with a wavelength between 380 nanometers and 495 nanometers is blue-violet light. Light with a wavelength of lower than 380 nanometers is within the invisible UV spectrum.

While blue-violet light, particularly in its highest range as it transitions to blue-green, is vital to human health by promoting good sleeping patterns, the lower range of blue-violet light can be harmful. In fact, exposure to blue-violet light is an indirect cause of macular degeneration. The leading cause of blindness, macular degeneration occurs when cells die within the retina's central area. In many cases, those afflicted with macular degeneration lose their central vision entirely.

The origin of blue-violet light

The sun is the primary producer of blue-violet light, as it is of all invisible and visible parts of the spectrum. However, light originating from man-made sources has become a significant threat to the eyesight of individuals, particularly in the past two or three decades. A number of electronic and electrical devices produce blue-violet light: LED light bulbs and fixtures, computer monitors, and smartphone and tablet screens are culprits in the proliferation of blue-violet light. Even fluorescent bulbs produce a lot of blue-violet light. This means that many thousands or millions of Americans are exposed to several hours per day of blue-violet light, and an invisible toll on their eyesight is building as a result.

What you can do to protect yourself

Even if you are one of the many Americans at risk from the threat posed by blue-violet light, there are several things you can do to minimize the risk or eliminate it altogether. In addition, medical researchers are concentrating their efforts on the hazards of blue-violet light, and promising technologies and refinements are arising as they move forward. Below are some of the steps you can take to protect your eyes from the dangers of blue-violet light on a daily basis:

  • Wear wavelength-specific sunglasses. Since the sun is still the biggest source of blue-violet light, it is critical to wear sunglasses capable of blocking the rays in this color spectrum. Sunglasses that block all blue-violet light have been around for a while, but advancements in sunglasses lens technology can provide specific wavelength protection. Keeping the "good" blue wavelengths available as well as maintaining color accuracy is important for your overall health and well-being.

  • Reduce the amount of time you are exposed to blue-violet light. Another common-sense, but effective, strategy to prevent blue-violet light from causing eye damage is to reduce your exposure time. That means avoiding long-term exposure to sources of blue-violet light. For example, if you work in an office environment with overhead fluorescent lighting, try to change your lighting scheme for a few hours per day by using incandescent lamps and turn off the overhead lights.

  • Purchase eye-friendly LED lighting. LED lighting is here to stay and is set to dominate residential lighting within a few years. However, LED light bulbs in the "cool" white range actually produce a lot of blue-violet light. Therefore, you will want to choose bulbs and fixtures with wavelengths that are less damaging. Buy lighting that produces warmer hues whenever possible, and use the cooler wavelengths only when necessary to have the clearest white light available for a given situation or application.

For information about cataract surgery or other treatment for the harmful effects of light on the eyes, contact an optometrist in your area.