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Experts: Blue Light Increases Risk Of Macular Degeneration

Posted August 22, 2002

— Sporting a pair of shades is more than just fashionable. Sunglasses protect your eyes from dangerous ultraviolet rays. When it comes to macular degeneration, eye experts say you also need worry about high-energy visible light, or blue light.

"It seems like blue light, of all the different colors in the light spectrum, seems to be the greatest risk factor for macular degeneration," said Dr. Michael Cooney, director of Duke Center for Macular Degeneration.

Melanin, the substance that protects your skin from the sun, also helps absorb the toxic effects to the retina. But as we get older the amount of melanin tends to decrease. Some sunglasses makers are adding a protective layer of synthetic melanin to lenses. They claim it provides 50 percent more protection against blue light.

Cooney says there is no proof that melanin-coated lenses prevent macular degeneration but he admits it could help.

"It makes sense. A melanin-coated lens may be of some benefit, but truthfully that has not been scientifically proven," said Cooney.

People should also be aware of the other risk factors for the disease, which include family history and the color of your skin, explains Cooney.

People with lighter skin and eyes are more likely to develop the disease. Taking high doses of vitamins A and C, beta carotene, and zinc with copper has been proved to help slow the progression of the disease, but it does not restore the vision that has been lost, according to Cooney.

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