“As we spend more and more time on digital devices, at work or at play, we need to make sure we take care of our vision,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.

Your eyes are at risk for damage, no matter what job you do. Some occupations have more severe eye risks than others, but you need to know how your day-to-day duties could affect your eyes.

When you think of protecting your vision at work, you may tend to think about physical hazards that can get into your eyes; however, with the increased use of digital devices in the workplace, you need to think more holistically about your eye healthcare.

Eyestrain, blurry vision and dry eyes are some of the biggest risks for people who spend a lot of time working on a digital devices.

A total worker health and safety program should provide for the occupational hazards of a job, but also consider the health & wellness. It’s time to educate ourselves and our employers how protecting your vision on the job may need to be addressed.

Blue Light from Digital Devices and our Eyes

Today, with the use of digital devices increasing in both personal use and on the job, we all need to take the time to learn more about the effects of blue light on our eyes.

Our eyes are constantly exposed to a variety of visible and invisible light rays that can have a range of effects. Turn on the light in a conference room. Work in the sun on a construction site. Sit at your desk working on a computer.

Sunlight is comprised of a range of different-colored light rays that contain different amounts of energy. Rays on the red end of the spectrum have less energy while those on the blue end have more energy. Light that looks white can have a large blue component, which can expose the eye to higher amounts from the blue end.

Sunlight is the main source of blue light; however, there are many other sources of artificial blue light, such as fluorescent and LED lighting, flat-screen televisions, energy-efficient light bulbs, and the many digital devices. Back-lit displays on smartphones, e-readers and computers can cause digital eyestrain, fatigue and sometimes permanent damage to your eyesight.

Blue light waves appear to flicker more than other wavelengths. This can cause eye fatigue without you even noticing it. Complaints of eye fatigue and discomfort are common among digital device users.

While the exposure from digital devices is small as compared to the sun, many healthcare professionals are concerned about the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of our eyes to the screens and the length of time spent on looking at them.

Too much exposure can lead to:

  • Digital Eyestrain. Blue light from digital device screens can decrease the contrast, which can lead to eyestrain including sore or irritated eyes or having a difficulty focusing. Of course, blue light is not the only cause of digital eyestrain, but these eye health issues can lead to accidents on the job, especially when you are doing more manual labor.
  • Retinal Damage. Continued exposure over the long term may lead to a damaged retina since blue light penetrates all the way to the retina, thus causing age-related macular degeneration.
  • At night, it can disrupt the sleep cycle, potentially causing sleepless nights and daytime fatigue.

Protecting Your Eyes

Education is a key component to protecting your vision on the job; however, this may also be viewed as a need for personal protective equipment for the eyes, too. If you have a constant exposure to digital devices, take these safety measures into account:

  • Decrease the amount of time spent in front of screens and/or take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest
  • Screen filters for smart phones, tablets and computer screen decrease the amount of blue light given off that may reach the retina
  • Computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses block blue light and help ease computer digital eyestrain by increasing the contrast
  • Anti-reflective lenses also reduce glare and increase contrast

Of course, blue light isn’t all bad. High-energy visible light boosts alertness, helps memory and elevates mood. Light therapy is used to treat seasonal affective disorder and blue light is important in regulating the circadian rhythm, the body’s natural wakefulness and sleep cycle.

Occupational health and safety go hand-in-hand. From an occupational safety perspective, we use personal protective equipment to safeguard our eyes on the job, such as goggles and other eye wear. From an occupational health & wellness perspective, we need to know how to take care of our eyes.

More information can be found on the Prevent Blindness website.

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