Can LEDs Damage Our Eyes?

Ever since LED lights became popular as well as cost-effective, they’ve infiltrated virtually every part of life. Much more than just lamp lights, LED lights are in a ton of things – in the computer or phone monitor you’re using right now, in digital clocks, in the lights of your TV’s remote control, all the way to traffic lights, and so on. And there are plenty of good reasons for that – LED lights are much more energy efficient than HID (High-Intensity Discharge) light bulbs or fluorescent lights, they don’t produce any unnecessary warmth, they don’t use mercury, they are more environmentally friendly, etc.

Are there disadvantages to LED lights, however? And in particular – are there any health risks involved in using LED lights and can they damage your eyes most of all?

Every new piece of technology we introduce into our lives always rattles the waters and brings out a ton of theories about its hidden dangers and LED lights are no exception. Computer LED lights, in particular, are most criticized because of multiple studies that have found that the standard blue LED lights can damage the retina of our eyes. There is still dispute surrounds some of these studies, but the general consensus is that, yes – prolonged and excessive exposure to direct LED light can have an irreversible and negative effect on our eyesight.

What exactly does this mean, however? The fact of the matter is that pretty much everything in life – including oxygen and water – can outright kill us if we take in too much of it at once. So, while it’s true that staring at a LED computer monitor for 16 hours per day, 365 days a year can damage your eyes, one might argue that it isn’t the LED’s fault we damaged our eyes but our own. Could it be that the solution to this problem is the same as the solution to most others – do everything in moderation?

Indeed, the best advice specialists give people is to limit the time we spend in front of the computer monitors. This sounds terrifying to those of us that work on computers but even for us that’s a workable solution – as long as we don’t reach ridiculous amounts of hours in front of the LED screen and we take good care of our eyes, there will typically be no noticeable negative effects from the LED screen exposure.

Additional safety tips include:

  • Laptops and smartphones have free apps that reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the LED display. These apps cost nothing and are easy to install. They are especially important to use after sunset when our eyes are getting tired. A lot of people don’t like to use them because they do change the color of your screen, but that’s hardly a problem for work-related LED screen use and is easy to get used to.
  • Physical screen filters can also be purchased and placed on top of your TV or computer screen to alter the wavelength of the LED display.
  • Believe it or not, keeping a good diet is also an effective way to protect your eyes – vitamin A is an essential eye health nutrient that is found in a lot of vegetables including spinach and peppers, as well as in salmon, krill, and even edible algae. The astaxanthin that’s also found in said algae has also been proven to positively affect retinal cell health.
  • Go outside and stare at the horizon. Yes, that’s exactly what we meant. Not only is natural sunlight essential for our entire bodies as well as our eyes (we don’t mean you should stare into the sun, obviously), but being outdoors and look at greater distances is also hugely beneficial to our eyes. This has less to do with the type of light that’s entering your eyes and more to do with the strain of our eye muscles, but it’s still an essential part of eye health. An additional problem of constantly being in front of a screen is that our eyes don’t get a chance to refocus for different distances. Instead, they are always staring at the same spot in front of them which strains your eye muscles and can lead to tiredness, pain, internal bleeding, and a lot of more serious problems, especially when coupled with retina damage from the blue LED displays. And yes, it bears repeating that receiving enough natural sunlight each day is vital for your eyesight especially if you spend a lot of tie in front of monitors.

All in all, it’s hard to deny that prolonged exposure to LED screens can damage your eyes’ retina. And considering that the retina cannot regenerate, this is a rather significant problem. However, it is rather silly to claim that this is a problem of LED bulbs instead of people’s behavior. If we stare into a HID light bulb for 16 straight hours even or just one day, we will face some serious eye health problems.

In other words, while LED lights are not harmless and the industry is – and should be – striving to further limit their negative effects on our eyesight, ultimately, we have the power to limit said negative effects on our lives quite easily. Use protective measures, limit your time in front of the screen (and even more importantly – mix your time in front of the screen with frequent breaks), take enough vitamin A, and don’t forget to spend time outdoors every day.

Do all this every day and you should have little trouble waiting for the day when the industry fixes this final flaw of LED lights or replaces them with newer and even better light sources.


Blogger, editor, developer who loves green living. Interested in photovoltaics and solar lighting. Reviewing solar products since 2013.

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