Blue light from phone screens precipitate blindness, study finds

The blue-tinted screens of cellphones and other electronic devices damage vision and may cause or precipitate macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the United States, according to researchers from the University of Toledo (UT) in Ohio.

A study published recently in the journal Scientific Reports details the process by which prolonged exposure to blue light causes a “toxic” chemical reaction in the retinal molecules and can kill photoreceptor cells.

"It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina," said UT professor Ajith Karunarathne, one of the study's authors. "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."

He advises to avoid browsing on mobile phones or tablets in the dark. Also, newer iPhones and Androids have a "Night Shift" or “Night Mode” feature that reduces the emission of blue light from device screens in the evening hours.

“Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good,” said Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student who was involved in the study.

Blue light has a shorter wavelength and more energy compared with other colors, according to researchers quoted by The Guardian.

"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.