Blue light has a link to macular degeneration. Blue light from the sun can increase the risk of the condition and worsen its progression. But research has not yet found a link between blue light from electronic devices and eye damage.

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) is the source of the above information.

Research suggests that blue light may have negative health effects beyond macular degeneration, such as increasing the risk of cataracts and harming sleep quality.

This article discusses blue light and its effects on macular degeneration and other aspects of health. It also examines whether blue light-blocking lenses can help prevent macular degeneration and offers tips on how to reduce the negative effects of blue light from electronics.

Share on Pinterest
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Sunlight is a composite of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet light. Each color has a different energy and wavelength. Blue rays are higher in energy and shorter in wavelength than colors on the red side of the spectrum. Although sunlight appears white, it can contain a large amount of blue light.

Other sources of blue light include:

  • LED lights
  • flat-screen LED televisions
  • fluorescent lights
  • compact fluorescent lights
  • computer monitors, tablet screens, and smartphones

The amount of blue light exposure people get from electronic devices is small compared with the amount of exposure from sunlight. Yet some researchers have concerns about it because of the close proximity of screens to the eyes and the prolonged time people spend looking at them.

Macular degeneration affects about 196 million people around the world. It is an advancing condition that affects the macula, the small middle part of the retina. The retina is a structure in the back of the eye that plays an important role in vision. A person with macular degeneration can experience a loss of central vision.

According to a 2018 review, blue light can penetrate the eye and affect the retina. The authors suggest that the harmful effects of blue light on the retina include:

  • changes in retinal function and shape
  • damage to the blood-retinal barrier, a structure that protects the retina from harmful substances
  • injury to retinal pigment cells

According to the AMDF, research indicates that blue light exposure from sunlight can increase the risk of macular degeneration and worsen its progression. In contrast, studies on blue light from electronic devices are inconclusive.

Blue light can affect the body’s circadian rhythm, the body clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

A certain amount of blue light exposure during the day can increase wakefulness and may improve sleep at night, according to a 2018 review. Conversely, excessive blue light exposure, particularly at night, may negatively affect sleep.

The blue light from sunlight and the blue light from electronic devices are different. Most research suggests that sunglasses that block UV light offer important protection from harmful effects on the eyes. However, some blue light exposure from the sun can be beneficial for health.

Studies do not provide indisputable support for wearing blue light-blocking lenses when using electronic devices. According to the authors of a 2017 review, there is a lack of high quality studies indicating that these lenses can improve macular health or sleep quality.

The AMDF’s position is that people should wear protective sunglasses for sun exposure. Since little evidence suggests that blue light-blocking lenses are helpful when using electronics, the AMDF advises that a person talk with their doctor to determine what is best for them.

Learn more about blue light-blocking glasses.

While there is no clear proof that blue light from electronics has a cumulative effect on the eyes, experts cannot say for sure that it does not. If a person wishes to reduce their exposure, the following measures may help:

  • Decrease screen time: Limit time in front of screens and take frequent breaks to allow the eyes to rest. Additionally, avoiding screen time for 2–3 hours before bedtime may help prevent negative effects on sleep.
  • Use screen filters: Filters can decrease blue light emission from computer screens and smartphones.
  • Use anti-reflective lenses: These block blue light, decrease glare, and increase contrast.
  • Wear computer glasses: These have yellow-tinted lenses that block blue light and increase contrast, which may reduce eyestrain.

Blue light from the sun has a link to macular degeneration, but research has not conclusively found a link between this condition and blue light from electronics.

People get more blue light exposure from sunlight than from electronics.

Research suggests that UV light-blocking sunglasses offer important protection from the harmful effects of sunlight on the eyes. However, research has not found high quality evidence that wearing blue light-blocking lenses when using electronics has benefits.

A person who has concerns about blue light from electronics can reduce their exposure by limiting screen time and using screen filters.