Is It True That Blue Light Can Cause Headaches?

Did you know that about 25% of the sunlight is light blue? And did you also know that out of the 7 colors of rainbow, blue is scattered the most due to its small and short-wave lengths that enable it to travel much faster than all the other colors?

TVs, computers, fluorescent, LED lighting, and smartphones all also emit blue light. And given that at least 7.26 billion people own smartphones, 2 billion computers are still in active use, and around 1.72 billion TVs are found in households, it's safe to say that people are increasingly being exposed to blue light than they were 2 decades ago.

The long-term effects of blue light on human health are still relatively not understood. However, more research resources and time are still being dedicated to determining the possible long-term effects that blue light may have on our health. But in the meantime, and to be on the safer side, it would help if you understood the connection of artificial blue light to common health conditions such as migraines, headaches, and eye strain.

Can artificial blue light cause headaches?

Computer vision syndrome (CVS), also known as digital eye strain (DES), is the medical phrase coined to describe a group of eye and vision-related issues resulting from extended use of phones, computers, tablets, and e-readers.

A number of symptoms tend to arise when one has DES. The symptoms seem to result from poor lighting when using any of the gadgets named above, excessive glaring on the gadget's screen, improper viewing distances, underlying vision issues which remain uncorrected, poor sitting postures, or a combination of all the factors mentioned.

These symptoms include:

  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Having blurry/blurred vision
  • Having dry eyes
  • Straining to see or eyestrain
  • Having sore or tired eyes
  • Experiencing neck and shoulder pain
  • Experiencing constant headaches

All these symptoms, associated with gadgets emitting artificial blue light, have prompted researchers to query whether it's the blue light that causes DES. But since the research on the association of blue light to DES symptoms is in its infancy, different theories have been hypothesized. Some experts, postulate that DES symptoms are caused by the long hours of the demanding up-close work and not the blue light emitted from the gadgets' screen.

Can blue light cause a migraine attack?

Migraines differ from headaches in that the symptoms associated with migraine are more intense and severe than in a headache. Statistics show that at least 80% of people who experience migraine attacks are photophobic (extremely sensitive to light).

Such people may only find relief from their light sensitivity issues by staying in entirely dark rooms. Research done has demonstrated that amber, blue, white, and red lights tend to increase the throbbing sensation felt during a migraine, muscle tension, and severity of migraine(s) pain.

The green light is the only light that doesn't intensify the symptoms of a migraine headache, as was evidenced in a 2016 study. In this study 69 participants who had active migraine headaches were exposed to different light colors. And they all confirmed that their symptoms were not in any way aggravated after exposure to the green light, with some stating that their symptoms had improved after exposure to the green light.

It was noted that the blue light-activated more neurons than all the colors used in this study. This made the researchers to conclude that blue light was the most photophobic color. It was also noted that the brighter the color, the more intense and severe the migraine headache symptoms were.

This study demonstrated that blue light only aggravates a migraine and does not cause or trigger it to occur. Studies conducted recently have shown that there is a possibility that the blue light might not be the triggering cause of migraine but the way an individual's brain processes the light. Experts believe that people who are susceptible to migraine attacks have extremely light-sensitive nerve pathways and light receptors in their eyes.

Thus, renowned researchers have recommended that such individuals, when having migraine attacks, should block all wavelengths of light except green light wavelengths. This medical advice seems to hold ground since some people who have worn blue-light-blocking sunglasses report having their sensitivity to light go away.

What are the other health side effects of blue light?

Below are some of the other health side effects believed to be caused by exposure to blue light;

#1. Sleep disorders

Headaches and sleeping disorders are directly linked to each other; this is according to a 2018 study. This is so because sleeping disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, sleep disturbances, and narcolepsy can cause one to have a migraine headache or tension. And headaches, on the other hand, can cause one to develop sleeping disorders.

#2. Reduced leptin secretion

Your adipose tissues produce leptin, a hormone responsible for regulating how much food you take in by inhibiting hunger and regulating energy expenditure in your body. Reduced leptin secretion may alter one's body's metabolism, which consequentially may cause them to gain weight.

According to a 2019 study, it was noted that there was decreased leptin production in individuals who used an iPad emitting blue light at night.

#3. Increased skin damage

Exposure to blue light leads to a decrease in antioxidants and an increase in the number of free radicals in your skin. This is as evidenced in a 2015 study, where the researchers used a dose of blue light that was equivalent to sunbathing for an hour during noon in Southern Europe (where temperatures range from 35.8 C - 36.9 C during summer).

Antioxidants work to eliminate free radicals in your body. And their decrease causes free radicals to increase. Free radicals damage your skin by destroying your skin's cells' DNA, protein, and cell membrane. This, in turn, predisposes you to skin cancer. It's important to note that more research is still being done to determine how much blue light emitted from blue light emitting devices is safe for your skin.

What are the signs and symptoms that you have a blue light-induced headache?

Below are the common symptoms that one may experience after prolonged use of a blue-light emitting device(s);

·Squinting-partially closing one or both eyes when looking at someone or something

·Having a burning or stinging sensation in one or both eyes

·Increased muscle tension in the face, neck, and shoulder region

·Itchy and sore eyes

·Blurred vision

Tips on how to prevent and avoid getting a blue-light-induced headache

Below are some of the tested and proven tips on how to prevent and avoid getting a headache from blue light;

#1. Adopt and maintain a proper sitting position

It's possible for one to assume a poor sitting posture, especially when working in front of a computer for long hours. And poor posture is a significant cause of headaches. Thus, adopting and maintaining a proper sitting position may help you avoid and prevent you from getting a headache from blue light.

Below are the recommendations outlined by The National Institutes Of Health on how to maintain a healthy sitting posture while working on your computer:

  • Ensure that your lower back stays at a 90-degree angle to your hips by; Adjusting the backrest of your chair or using a lumbar support pillow
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed while typing by raising or lowering your armrests
  • Place your keyboard 1 to 2 inches above your thighs
  • Ensure your computer monitor is at least 20-26 inches from your body
  • Place your computer monitor screen at your eye level. This helps reduce and avoid excessive neck tilting
  • Always use a screen to reduce the glare from the device you are using
#2. Invest and make use of a paper holder

Invest and make use of a paper holder if you are constantly typing while referring to a paper document. This way, your head and neck's up-down movement will be significantly reduced. It will also help reduce your eyes' focusing ability. All these work to help prevent and reduce a light blue-induced headache.

#3. Incorporate deskercises' breaks

Muscle tension indeed causes headaches. Thus, it would help to incorporate breaks in between when using blue light emitting devices. This way, you avoid getting headaches. Consider stretching out your hands, gently shrugging your shoulders, slowly rotating your head, and moving your chin up and down as part of your 'deskercises.'

#4. Implement the 20/20/20 method

This method involves stopping using a LED device every 20 minutes, focusing on an object which is around 20 feet (6 meters) in distance, and studying the object for about 20 seconds. This method helps provide relief to your eyes from an up close and intense focusing angle.

#5. Adjust the light settings on the device

Adjust your device's light setting from blue to warmer light, either at night or during the day.

#6. Ensure your eyes are moist throughout the day

Blinking helps keep your eyes moist and clean. On average, a healthy human blinks at least 12 times a minute. However, this number of times is drastically reduced when one is staring at a screen or concentrating on a challenging task. This predisposes one to have dry eyes. And dry eyes contribute to eye-straining, which in turn causes or triggers headaches.

Hence to reduce headaches caused by using LED devices, consider keeping your eyes moist by using safe artificial tears, eye drops, and room humidifiers. People with migraines have a 1.4 times higher chance of having dry eye disease than people who don't have migraines. This is what a 2019 study demonstrated.

Do blue light glasses prevent or cause headaches?

There is a new craze where almost every eyeglass dealing website claim that blue light glasses have the ability to prevent DES symptoms and other eye-related problems. But according to a study published by a reliable source, the only definitive thing that blue light glasses can do is to block blue light wavelengths. There isn't enough research to refute or agree with the claims that blue light glasses can prevent DES symptoms.

Having a headache is a common occurrence when putting on new glasses or when one glasses prescription has changed. However, this type of headache goes away within days, and if it doesn't, then it's advisable that you seek medical attention from a certified optician or ophthalmologist.

Can blue light cause headaches?

Using blue light emitting devices like phones, tablets and computers may predispose one to get a headache. But the blue light may not be the actual cause of the headache; one's posture, muscle tension, sensitivity to light, and eye strain may be the cause.

Green light seems to alleviate headache and migraine symptoms, whereas exposure to blue light appears to worsen migraine symptoms which include throbbing pain and tension. Adopting a proper sitting posture, keeping your eyes moist, implementing the 20/20/20 method, and taking breaks to stretch out are some of the things you can do to prevent yourself from getting a blue light-induced headache.

Medical practitioners and researchers haven't quite understood the relationship between blue light, eyes, and general body health. Thus if you keep experiencing headaches after using blue light emitting devices, it would be best to have a certified medical practitioner examine you.

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