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Blue light from phones, tablets could accelerate blindness and hurt vision, study finds

The blue light beaming from smartphones and tablets is changing cells in our eyes that could accelerate blindness, according to a study.

Brett Molina, USA Today, Aug 13, 2018

Researchers from The University of Toledo studied the impact of blue light - which comes from the sun as well as digital devices - on our eyes.

The study found blue light triggers "toxic" reactions in retinal molecules that sense light and signal the brain. The retinal used by photoreceptors in our eyes is what allows people to see.

Results showed blue light helps generate poisonous chemical reactions killing photoreceptors, which cannot be restored once they die off.

This leads to macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that causes blindness starting in your 50s or 60s, researchers said.

"It's no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye's retina," said Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the University of Toledo's department of chemistry and biochemistry, and one of the study's authors, in a statement. "Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop."

The study was published July 5 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers are studying blue light coming from TVs, smartphones and tablets to figure out what impact it has during everyday exposure. They advise people wear sunglasses filtering UV and blue light, and avoid using their digital devices in the dark.

"By learning more about the mechanisms of blindness in search of a method to intercept toxic reactions caused by the combination of retinal and blue light, we hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world," Karunarathne said.

In recent years, companies including Apple, Amazon and Google have introduced blue light filters to limit users' exposure. For example, Apple's iOS and MacOS features a Night Shift mode where users can adjust displays to warmer colors.

Blue light can also affect your sleep, suppressing your body's ability to create the hormone melatonin, according to the National Sleep Foundation. They suggest staying away from devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed.

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