Blaulichtschutz für Jung und Alt - ist das nötig?

Blue light protection for elderly – is it necessary?

New studies show a connection between blue light and the development of cataracts.

In today’s digital era, we are constantly surrounded by screens and modern light sources that emit a high proportion of blue light. At the same time, we are spending more and more time indoors, which means that our eyes are increasingly exposed to so-called blue light or High Energy Visible (HEV) light.

This development has an impact on our health, both in terms of our sleep and our eyes.

The importance of suitable blue light protection varies according to age. Children, adults and older people have different needs and risks in terms of blue light exposure and protection.

Two factors make effective blue light protection necessary in today’s world:

  1. People are spending more and more time indoors and are exposed to modern light sources with a high blue component and a lack of near-infrared light.

  2. People are increasingly using digital devices with active, self-illuminating screens, i.e. smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs.
Spektrum LED kaltweiß
Fig.: Light spectrum LED flat screen monitor
Blue or HEV light essentially acts on two levels in the organism:  

    1. It has an effect on the chronobiological system by acting as a “signal of the day” and adjusting the organism to activity and readiness to perform on a hormonal level. This happens on the one hand by increasing a number of stress hormones and on the other hand by blocking the release of the regeneration and sleep hormone melatonin. Blue light in the evening and at night therefore hinders effective regeneration and restful sleep.

    2. It has an adverse effect on the anatomical structures of the eye, particularly the retina and the lens of the eye. These structures are damaged by oxidative stress, especially if the light does not contain any near-infrared components. While daylight contains more than 40% near- infrared radiation, it is practically absent in modern light sources (= LEDs).

    3. The consequence is reduced cellular regeneration, since near-infrared has antioxidant effects, increases energy production for repair processes, and promotes mass transfer ( e.g. diffusion) in poorly perfused tissues such as the site of sharpest vision and the lens of the eye. Too much blue light therefore promotes the development of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Fig. Effects of blue (HEV) light on the eyes and hormone system
Considering the different age groups (children, adults and the elderly), it makes sense to differentiate accordingly when it comes to the topic of blue light protection, because each age is associated with different forms of possible endangerment:

  1. with regard to the disturbance of the chronobiological system and the blue light-mediated impairment of the hormonal system, individually adapted blue light protection makes sense for all age groups and is therefore generally recommended.

  2. With regard to the anatomical structures in the eye, the following relationships apply:

  • Children, for example, have a still water-clear eye lens, thus the high-energy radiation can very easily penetrate to the retina. However, since the concentration of yellow protective pigment (lutein = protective filter and antioxidant) is highest in the site of sharpest vision in children, they would be relatively well protected from retinal damage in their natural habitat, e.g., in greenery. However, the more often children spend time indoors or play or learn with digital devices, the more important it is for them to have effective blue light protection as well, in order to protect the retina and crystalline lens from excessive exposure from the outset – as an investment in the future, so to speak, in terms of preventing age-related eye damage.
Fig.: Illustration of natural eye lenses vs. artificial replacement lenses

When a water-clear replacement lens is implanted, efficient blue light protection is particularly important, because in such a case the protection of the retina by the yellow discolored own eye lens falls away, so that through the implanted water-clear lens the HEV light hits the retina, which has become almost unprotected, unhindered and can form increased oxygen radicals there and cause oxidative stress. The most effective measure to prevent this is the use of powerful blue light protection in the form of eyeglasses with appropriately tinted lenses.

New study results on the development of cararacts:

A study from 2021 (University of Madrid) shows a connection between blue light, which suppresses melatonin production in the lens of the eye,  and the development of cataracts. Exposure to a yellow filter reduces melatonin secretion in the lens of the eye, protecting cells from oxidative damage, which is a major event in the development of cataracts. 

The use of blue light filters is therefore an effective approach to prevent premature clouding of the eye lens.

Interested parties can find a summary of the study “Modulation of aqueous humor melatonin levels by yellow-filter and its protective effect on lens” here:

Buy your blue light filter glasses here:

Source article: September 2023, Dr. med. Alexander Wunsch

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