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Svjetlost is the leading ophthalmology Clinic in the Southeastern Europe, offering complete ophthalmic services.

LED lighting - Does it harm your eyes?

LED lighting - Does it harm your eyes?
LED lighting sources are not harmful, in fact they don’t even heat, and due to their durability and low energy consumption, LED bulbs are environmentally and economically acceptable. But we must pay attention to the color of the light itself. 
In recent years, LED lighting (Light-Emitting Diode) has become very popular. Low power consumption, great brightness and longevity of the LED bulbs certainly contributed to this. In addition, the intense white-blue light intensity gives the ambiance of luxury and looks fancy. Also, street lighting is increasingly replaced by white LED spotlights that brighten our streets very well. 

But recently, in our newspapers and internet portals appeared writings on how LED lighting is harmful to our eyes and overall our health. Is this really so?

Namely, the LED light that is most popular and most commonly used is cold white light. Although light consists of different spectra: red, green, blue and yellow, all these mixed colours give a normal warm white light as the light of our sun.

But the popular LED lighting just because of the special effect of ambient luxury has an increased share of a cold white spectrum (that is, the LED bulbs we buy are measured as the heat of light in Kelvin). The effect of cold white light (3000 and more Kelvin) is achieved by an increased share of bluish spectral shades having a wider wavelength than red and yellow light, but due to the higher energy and thus acuteness. Although our corneas and lenses have good ultraviolet (UV) protection, they are barely blocking this blue spectrum and high energy rays easily penetrate the depths of our eye to our macula (yellow spot). That is why such a cold white light can cumulatively stimulate the macula and increase the risk of degeneration of the yellow spot in later life.

Likewise, because of its superior penetration, cold white light is more strongly stimulating our eye and thereby triggers our brain and makes it more difficult to sleep. For this reason, it is not recommended to spend time on laptop or smartphone before sleep because the LED displays also disproportionally emit cold white light. 

The LED street cold white light illuminates the streets very well, but the blue spectrum shifts its shorter wavelengths better on air and water molecules (that’s why sky and sea are blue) and it contributes to eye strain and discomfort (we all felt it at work in the room with neon tubes that also emit cold white light).

On the other hand, the bluish spectrum of illumination isn’t the only harmful. Because of its penetration, it regulates our rhythm of alertness and contributes to a better mood. That is why in these dark winter months some people feel a seasonally low mood.
How can we protect ourselves?

LED lighting sources are not harmful, in fact, they don’t even heat, and due to their durability and low energy consumption, LED bulbs are environmentally and economically acceptable. But we must pay attention to the colour of the light itself. After the initial popularity of the cold white spectrum of colours, now more and more in our stores, we can find LED bulbs of warm white or yellow light (temperature 2500 K and below). Such LED bulbs with the colour of their lighting resemble sunlight or incandescent bulb. Also, the LEDs on our laptops and smartphones can be protected by blue filters, especially in the form of a screen foil, which also contributes to less eye strain. Many of the latest generation smartphones in the evening include the night-time mode of the screen lighting when the screen becomes yellower and warmer and more comfortable for the eyes.

It is important to emphasize that there are intraocular lenses that are nowadays embedded in cataracts in our eye clinic, with additional blue filters to protect us from blue light (with existing UV protection). Does it mean that by incorporating such lenses we will not be able to enjoy the blue sky or the sea anymore? Of course not! This filter will only protect us from increased blue radiation. 

Street lighting because of low intensity does not hurt our eyes but traffic experts need to consider the disintegration of such a light that may be somewhat uncomfortable while driving and recommend more yellow tones in street lighting. 

doc. dr. sc. Ratimir Lazić, Head of the Retinal Department