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The Best & Worst Modern Light Sources for Your Eyes

A very popular topic among consumers today is the effect of everyday lighting on their eye health. If you’re wondering whether you need blue light protection, or which is the best lighting for eyes, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know.

Worst: Fluorescent Lights

In 2017, we wrote a post on this same topic and touched on fluorescent lights’ deleterious effects. But since then, the research has become even more clear: fluorescent lights are harmful in more ways than one.

To start, it’s important to note that these bulbs emit ultraviolet light, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation. The photoreceptors in a retina can be harmed by this light and become increasingly damaged over time, which can create more eye problems.

Additionally, fluorescent bulbs emit thousands of “flickers” per second. Even though they’re not visible to the naked eye, the brain processes them. This can trigger nervous system events like migraines, tics and even seizures in sensitive kids and adults.

There’s also research that shows fluorescent bulbs negatively affect people with anxiety disorders and that exposure to fluorescent light, bright light and cool light increase the risk of eye diseases by 12%. If all this wasn’t bad enough, this type of lighting can contribute to chronic fatigue, dizziness, eye strain and more.

Best: Warm Incandescent, Full Spectrum or LED Lights

So, if not fluorescent lights, then what? Here are some much better choices:

  • Warm incandescent light bulbs, which emit a warmer light that produces fewer UV rays than their bright white counterparts.
  • Full spectrum lighting, which is basically a marketing term that refers to bulbs that simulate natural sunlight and provide a balance of brightness and contrast.
  • LED bulbs, which are the most energy-efficiency lighting out there and produce zero UV rays. Choose LEDs with warm light, to avoid harmful effects of blue light (more on that in a bit).

Worst: Blue Lights

You’ve almost certainly heard about blue lights, the light we’re exposed to when we look at digital screens. Current research has this to say: “Constant exposure to blue light over time could damage retinal cells and cause vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration. It can also contribute to cataracts, eye cancer and growths on the clear covering over the white part of the eye.” And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, “children are more at risk than adults because their eyes absorb more blue light from digital devices.”

But, how much is too much? And don’t we need computers and screens to do work and schoolwork, and to function in the modern world? Most people would say yes. You probably can’t avoid blue light, but it is in the best interest of your eyes and eye health to limit your screen time and take preventive steps to protect your eyes. Here are two easy ways:

  • Do some research on the best computer glasses to wear while staring at a screen and the best blue light protection (like blue light filters) for other devices in your home, in order to reduce your exposure.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule to reduce digital eye strain. Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

Best: Red Lights

New research is showing promise in the use of red light for better eyesight. One study found that just “three minutes of exposure to deep red light once a week, when delivered in the morning, can significantly improve declining eyesight.” The researchers say that the red lights essentially “switch on” mitochondria in a person’s retina, helping to boost naturally declining vision. If studies continue to show benefits like this, the hope is that it will lead to home-based light therapies that the average person can afford.

Until such a time comes, the best way to take care of your vision and eye health is by doing what you can to avoid or limit harmful light sources like fluorescent lights and blue lights. Seek out better bulbs for the areas you can control (e.g. your home) and stay tuned for further research into light therapies for vision and eye health.

One final, very important piece of advice: make sure to schedule an annual eye exam so you can spot eye problems early and keep your vision in tip-top shape. Make your appointment today!