Blue light and the health hazards of HEV, High Energy Visible light, have become available to ECPs wherever they turn. They find information in the industry news media, class credit articles, seminars, conventions and on the Internet when looking up vision health concerns. It is everywhere.
Even though the industry may be aware of the HEV health concerns, the general public may not be. This is the reason every vision health professional should make HEV part of the discussion with every patient. It is our job to educate and inform our patients of the dangers of HEV.
What is blue light?
The spectrum, of natural sunlight includes the high-energywavelength that humans are attuned to. It affects our sleep cycle, alertness, mood, cognitive functions and sense of wellbeing. Depending on the study3, there is a range in the blue portion of the light spectrum that has hazardous affects. The peak threshold of the blue color cone photoreceptors is 463mm, with a range of 400-500 nm. They can penetrate into the eye causing retinal damage, which is cumulative.
Sources of High Energy Visible light- HEV
The first source of HEV is sunlight so, every one of all ages should wear UV and HEV wavelength protective sunglasses. Other sources of hazardous HEV light are all digital devices. This includes compact florescent lightbulbs with a spike of 440nm in emission over traditional incandescent lightbulbs. LED TVs, LED lightbulbs, laptops, tablets. smart phones, pads, e-readers and computer monitors that are actually backlit with LEDs. Basically, all digital devices with screens that emitting LED light have the harmful HEV light waves.
Effects on Human Health
It is known as a medical fact that UV rays have been linked to eye damage including cataracts4, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia and photokeratitis. They can cause temporary vision loss. The HEV radiation from the sun may increase the long-term risk of macular degeneration which means permanent vision loss.
Studies4 are showing a link of HEV to several types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and risk of depression. There have been numerous studies2 that show prolonged exposure to the blue light in the light spectrum can cause other psychological issues in addition to depression.
It should be noted here that because children are more susceptible to retinal damage from UV rays with their lens being clearer, it receives more UV penetration into the eye. With the children’s schools going more and more to digital devices, children have longer exposure to HEV rays and should wear computer or screen type glasses, whether they need a prescription or not.1 They should wear sunglasses when outside that blocks HEV along with UV rays, as children generally spend more time outside than adults.
Protection from Harmful HEV Rays
There is a natural protection from the sun’s harmful rays. It is the ocular lens pigment which is a filtering layer within the eye that protects it from the effects of high-energy light. Infants do not have any of this OLP because it accumulates gradually throughout our lives. It goes away when cataract surgery is performed, so patients need to be told about proper eye protection.
There are some solutions available for HEV protection, with new ones under development. They are 1. Block blue light, 2. Deflect blue light, 3.Filter blue light.1 The Blue Blocker™ lenses have a downfall with distortion and impaired vision, especially while driving. This method has not been perfected as of date.
There are coatings that deflect the specific wavelengths of light that are harmful to the eye. Most major manufactures have their own commercial ‘anti-blue’ coating with AR coatings, deflecting approximately 20% of the blue light between 415-455nm.1 But none eliminate the HEV 400-500nm wavelengths completely. The lens monomer must be tinted or infused with a filtering agent of the proper color. Those with amber-tinted and a distinctive yellow are popular with gamers and computer users. To avoid distortions, a non-amber lens must be used.
The third way to protect damage to our eyes with this HEV wavelengths is by filtration using specific lens materials. The lens monomer must either be tinted or infused with a filtering agent to address the HEV spectrum of light. In some instances, both the lens tint and UV block are used for computer users. The OLP lens maker has patented the use of ocular lens pigment and melanin infused directly into the lens monomer. The filtration rate on the OLP lens at 400nm is 94%.
There is a combination of factors to determine which recommendations you have for a particular patient. The choices would consider the patient’s computer and digital device usage, lifestyle, health, age and work environment for starters.1 The ECP must consider computer vision syndrome risk factors as well as AMD. Again, children are especially vulnerable and taking time to explain to parents, the importance of UV and HEV protection for their children is our responsibility. Plano lenses are an option for those not needing a prescription but, who use computers at school, play video games, smart phones, HD TV watching, playing outside, etc. Children should have sunglasses as well.
ECPs role in Educating their Staff and Patients
Educating your patients begins with educating and training your staff. Just like patients, your staff may not be aware of the dangers of HEV blue light in their everyday lives. Does your office computers have filters over the monitors to protect your staff from UV and HEV light? Take your staff through a training session on the subject and make informational materials available as well as a list of web sites to visit on the subject. There is a vast amount of information that ECPs may have on hand for educating their patients and staff about UV and HEV as well as directing them to web sites with even more information. Encourage your staff to take part in some of the many blue light education courses as part of their continuing education program and accreditation requirements.
If your patients see you and your staff wearing blue light solutions, they will be more likely to listen to you. Include HEV hazards in your patient lifestyle questionnaire and forms. Ask about digital use, listing all the devices that emit the hazardous blue light. Review all of the messages your patients are getting at check-in, in the waiting room, throughout the dispensary and the paperwork they are asked to complete. Is education information on your website? Are the P-O-P materials in your office up to date? Are they getting a consistent message?
Have ready-to-wear UV and HEV protective eyewear available for children and adults alike. Consider a three-tier pricing structure and packages with computer eyeglasses for indoors and protective sunglasses for outdoors.2 If these are easily available in your office, starting at a reasonable price, then the patients are more likely to purchase them right then. Also, this will make it an easy sale for you and your staff, increasing your bottom line. Be ahead of the curve on this topic to benefit your patients and your practice!
1.VCPN, July 2015 Continuing Education Supplement.
2. Eyecare Business article date 04/01/2015, ‘Another Blue persepctive’.
3. Harvard Health publications, ‘Blue light has a dark side’ May 1, 2012,
4. The Vision Council, Digital Eye Strain Report 2015.