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Screen time has surged and your eye health could be at risk

4 min read

Lock down has meant a lot of us are spending more time in front of digital devices, whether this is because we are professionals working from home, students using e-learning platforms or just keeping in touch with friends and family using our computers and smart phones. The wonders of technology have allowed people to carry on with their jobs, their schoolwork and has very importantly helped many feel less isolated during this pandemic by enabling us to see and speak to our loved ones, albeit remotely.

However on the downside it might mean that you're starting to suffer more frequently from headaches and eye strain or eye fatigue including sore and irritated eyes and difficulty focusing. 

If you think you are suffering from these symptoms then it's time to think about supporting the health of your eyes during a time when they are working particularly hard.

Blue light emitted from screens damages eyes

Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light, once combined we see it as white light. Each of the different colours have different energy and wavelengths - those on the red end have longer wavelengths and less energy while those on the blue end have shorter wavelengths and more energy.

While the intensity of sunlight is far greater than any digital device can emit studies are starting to suggest that continued exposure to blue light from screens over time could lead to damaged retinal cells. This may be due to the amount of time and the proximity of our eyes to the device.

Please don't panic about blue light though - it is important to note that some of it is necessary as it maintains our circadian rhythm (our biological clock) and the blue light present during the morning and afternoon hours serves as a cue to tell our brains that it's day time and time to be active. This is one of the reasons why blue light emitted from screens, if we're using them during the evening and at night, can disrupt sleep.

Children are particularly at risk

The retina of a child's eye is of course still developing therefore vision protection is particularly important. A child has a naturally clear lens while an adult's is more yellow, the yellow lens of a more mature eye works to filter and absorb some of the short wavelength blue light. In other words this mean children’s eyes absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are eye health hero's

One way to look after your eyes is to include more macular carotenoids in your diet. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids that have both been shown to possess protective qualities and improve how our eyes function.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow to red pigments found widely in vegetables and other plants - lutein is considered a yellow pigment, however in high concentrations it appears orange-red.

In nature, lutein and zeaxanthin appear to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, especially from the high-energy light rays of blue light. In the human body they are found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye. Recently a third carotenoid has been found in the macula called meso-zeaxanthin - this pigment is not found in food sources and appears to be created in the retina from ingested lutein.

It is believed that lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin in the macula block blue light from reaching the underlying structures in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage. Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation increases macular pigment optical density and improve subjects headache frequency, eye strain and other visual performance measures associated with prolonged digital screen time.

Lutein and zeaxanthin also appear to have important antioxidant functions in the body. Along with other natural antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E, these important pigments guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals

Foods that include lutein and zeaxanthin

Egg yolks are an excellent source of both lutein and zeaxanthin - both these carotenoids are better absorbed by the body in the presence of fat therefore the natural fat content of the egg yolks makes it a great vehicle for these particular nutrients.

Dark leafy greens like broccoli, kale and spinach not only contain lutein and zeaxanthin but also vitamin C and beta-carotene. Combined all these nutrients provide an antioxidant powerhouse protecting your eyes from free radical damage.

Orange coloured fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, peppers and mangoes are packed with beta-carotene (a type of vitamin A) which is essential for vision. 

Other foods that are good for your eyes include corn, avocados, tomatoes and spices such as cayenne pepper or paprika, which are all sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.

You may also like to try a supplement if you're looking for a simple way to get all the nutrients you need to support your eye health and vision. Just Vitamins' Visisoft Ultrabright contains a lutein, zeaxanthin & meso-xeaxanthin complex formulated to work across the entire macular and also contains Vitamin A, Riboflavin and Zinc.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.