You may have heard that blue light that emits from phones and other electronics can disrupt your regular sleep patterns. Now, researchers at the University of Toledo have discovered an entirely new problem with blue light. Apparently, blue light can cause blindness.
Yes, you read that right.
It turns out that retinal, which are molecules we need to see, turn into “cell killers” when it’s exposed to blue light, according to WTOL. This was revealed when researchers studied what happened when blue light was shone onto different types of cells from the body. They looked at photoreceptor cells, neurons, and heart cells. Blue light shone on the retinal led to poisonous chemicals being produced, which killed photoreceptor cells.
Futurism noted that scientists already knew that blue light from screens “contributed” to blindness, but they didn’t understand the mechanism behind why until now.
Moreover, it looks like the problem could affect many people. Researcher Ajith Karunarathne said that “We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it.”
But just because the researchers figured this out doesn’t mean that they’re done working. Ajith said that he is interested in finding solutions to this problem.
“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.”
But for now, scientists are warning against people using phones in dark rooms, which is a habit that many people have.
Blue light from phone screens accelerates blindness, study finds https://t.co/7pdSDI2xmg
— The Guardian (@guardian) August 9, 2018
And to get more specific about the implications, it’s necessary to understand what retinal does. Retinal is a molecule in the eye that sends visual information to the brain. In order to see, Ajith detailed that “You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see. Photoreceptors are useless without retinal, which is produced in the eye.”
Here's what staring at a screen at night does to your eyes. https://t.co/fRXbVWpkJZ
— Futurism (@futurism) August 9, 2018
Some potential ways to curb blindness from blue light could include treatment using “alpha tocopherol.” These are derived from Vitamin E, and scientists are looking for ways to turn it into an eyedrop. Any medicine would appear to help or delay macular degeneration, a condition that sees about 2 million new cases reported per year.
And rather than the age-related macular degeneration that many people already know about, New Atlas suggests that it could be a new type of gradual macular degeneration “in a more long-term, and slower, degradation of our eyesight.”