Blue light blocking lenses are doing things for my patients that eyeglasses don’t normally do.
Many of us are aware of the potential dangers of blue light and its various impacts regarding our well being. These concerns are justified and, with consumer awareness at an all-time high, it is essential that we properly identify patient needs and address their concerns.
Recent examples of blue light in the news created a buzz on this topic. The cover story of the August 2018 issue of National Geographic, “Sleep: Inside the New Science of Slumber,” was read by millions and picked up immediately by major news networks. It begins, “Our floodlit society has made sleep deprivation a lifestyle. But we know more than ever about how we rest — and how it keeps us healthy.” 1
In addition, CNN headlined an article, “Blue light like that from smartphones linked to some cancers, study finds” 2 on April 27, 2018.
In our practice we regularly prescribe appropriate blue light lens options for dealing with our patient’s respective lifestyle needs.
IMPACTS OF EXPOSURE
Blue light at night suppresses the secretion of melatonin that in turn inhibits our cognitive ability. All digital devices (smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs) as well as LED and most energy-efficient lights have peak emittance at about 455 nanometers (nm). Blue light, in the range of 450nm to 500nm, is responsible for triggering the receptors in our retina to suppress the release of melatonin. Conversely, as we dramatically reduce the intensity of blue light in this range from reaching our retina, the suprachiasmatic nucleus signals the pineal gland to release melatonin, thus promoting regular sleep patterns. Devices and energy-efficient lights are telling our bodies to stay awake. Only lenses that block a significant percentage of blue light at peak emittance (about 455nm) and above will help stimulate melatonin regulation.
Managing blue light exposure helps create the opportunity for maximal cognition during the day. (I don’t know about other people, but there haven’t been many days where I feel more intelligent than I need to be.)
ONE SUCCESSFUL CASE
The first patient whom I prescribed blue light blocking lenses presented with what appeared to me to be signs of sleep deprivation. When I questioned his mother about his sleep patterns she responded by regaling me with tales of his very poor sleep, poor academic performance as well as acting out in self-defeating ways. Further questioning revealed that he spent many hours on his digital devices, as well as using them right up to bedtime. With great trepidation I discussed the innovation of blue light blocking lenses and their purported positive effects on melatonin regulation (now supported by studies such as Ryab-Quang Van’s presented at the AAO in September of 2017). The study revealed almost double the melatonin levels in the participants when wearing blue light blocking lenses after 6pm.
I scheduled a six-week follow up. At the follow-up visit both the son and the mother had noticed a tremendous (her word) improvement in his sleep quality, interaction with others and academic performance. Although, his story is anecdotal, we continue to prescribe the same lenses to many more patients, both children and adults, with the same great results. The slight tint with these lenses is a product feature we promote to ensure that the full benefits of improved sleep and productivity are experienced.
IMPROVED SLEEP AND COMFORT
Eye strain and visual blur are created by blue light scattering both in the atmosphere and inside our eyes. Whether from the sun, digital devices or energy-efficient lighting, blue light creates haze and visual discomfort.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Outdoor blue light wavelengths are problematic across the entire blue light spectrum from 400nm to 500nm and are connected to potential macular cellular damage, eye strain and visual discomfort. We can all appreciate the effectiveness of glare reduction by polarized lenses. The newest development is blue light blocking polarized lenses with proprietary modification that allows all of the benefits of a premium polarized lens with the ability for enhanced digital screen viewing. Not only do they provide the patient with a higher level of protection from the sun’s potentially harmful blue light rays, they also offer dramatically improved contrast sensitivity and visual clarity versus regular tinted or standard polarized lenses. Additionally, users will also find greater ease when viewing digital devices. The result is the most effective color enhancing sun lens available.
I encourage you to implement a blue light product strategy with your staff and offer your patients the best lenses to address their lifestyle needs, indoors and out.
Gilan L Cockrell, OD, FAAO, is CEO of Williams Group Consulting.