How blue light from smartphone screens can speed up blindness

12 August, 2018, 19:27 | Author: Kara Nash
  • Blue Light From Smartphone, Computer Displays Can Accelerate Blindness: Study

They found that exposing the eye to blue light causes a reaction which leads an essential light-sensitive protein in the retina, known as retinal, to generate poisonous molecules in photoreceptor cells, resulting in their death.

The researchers explain that the blue light emitted from the digital devices has a shorter wavelength and more energy compared to other forms of light and this can cause damage to the eyes.

Hundreds of millions of people are glued to their phone and many people use it as their dedicated ebook reader because it is always in their pocket. This was revealed when researchers studied what happened when blue light was shone onto different types of cells from the body.

"We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens can not block or reflect it", said Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor at University of Toledo in the US. "You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see", Karunarathne said. During the experiments with photoreceptor cells of the retina that is added by the specialists to their neural, cancer and cardiac cells, blue light irradiation provoked "murder" molecules in the retina of all three cell types with which they were combined.

It kills photoreceptor cells, which do not regenerate. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells. "When they're dead, they're dead for good", said Karunarathne.


Retinal - a substance formed by oxidation of vitamin A - changes and kills photoreceptor cells by dissolving some of their membranes.

"No activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light", said Karunarathne.

The researchers did find a molecule called alpha-tocopherol that can stop the cells from dying, but the natural antioxidant fails to protect older users who are more susceptible to macular degeneration. Dr Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor in the university's department of chemistry and biochemistry explained that this blue light is constantly affecting the cornea and the lens that can not block or reflect it. But as a person ages or the immune system is suppressed, the patients loses the ability to counteract the harmful combination. This mechanism can work not only in photoreceptors but also in other types of cells, reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

"If you look at the amount of light coming out of your cell phone, it's not great but it seems tolerable", Dr.in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the USA, affecting over 11 million Americans. Both were necessary to kill the cells.

Dr Karunarathne said: "That is when the real damage occurs".

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