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Blue light from electronic devices, sun may damage vision: study

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Toledo, OH — Exposure to blue light from the sun and electronic devices may destroy cells in the retina and accelerate the onset of blindness, a recent study from the University of Toledo indicates.

Researchers discovered that emissions of blue light cause retinal molecules, which sense light and send signals to the brain, to produce toxic chemical molecules in photoreceptor cells that help the eye to see. The ensuing chemical reactions kill photoreceptors. The result is macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that can trigger blindness, typically beginning in a person’s 50s or 60s.

“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” Ajith Karunarathne, lead author and assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UT, said in an Aug. 8 press release. “It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina. 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.”

Macular degeneration affects more than 10 million people nationwide and is the leading cause of vision loss, the American Macular Degeneration Foundation states. The organization recommends protecting eyes from ultraviolet light, refraining from smoking, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen as ways to reduce the risk of the disease.

Karunarathne encourages using sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light and avoiding looking at devices in the dark. According to the release, he and colleagues are monitoring blue light levels among common exposures such as TVs, cellphones and tablets for further research.

“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 the release.

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

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