Lighting in the home: a way to improve daily vision

How does poor lighting ‘hurt’ your eyes?

Photo Courtesy of BBC (Copyright: Thinkstock)

Photo Courtesy of BBC (Copyright: Thinkstock)

I often get asked by parents of my pediatric patients if it is “okay” for their child to read in dim lighting and will it harm their eyes? Well, let me try to answer this two part question with a real life situation that happened recently to me, and coincidentally to two of my patients.

I was reading the latest news on my new smart phone in the dark.  After ten minutes of reading, I noticed that I had, what appeared to be a black, circular spot directly in front of my vision. Of course I panicked.  I ran to the bathroom to inspect my eyes in the mirror. I couldn’t see anything unusual, though I still had that “blind spot” in front of my vision. I soon realized that I must have harmed my eyes by reading in the dark. You see, whenever we are in a dark environment our pupils open up to allow more light into the eye so we can see better. But a big pupil in the presence of a bright light source can put the eyes in a more vulnerable state of damage. With my widely dilated pupils, I was so focused on reading off of the bright screen of my smart phone that I literally burned or photostressed my eye. It took quite some time for my vision to return back to normal. As for my two patients, they were watching movies on their tablet while in the dark which caused a similar situation to occur.

No … it’s not “okay” to read in the dark. And yes … poor light settings can damage your eyes!

Lighting to consider

Having good lighting in the home is very important to seeing clearly, safely, and comfortably. The best suggested type of lighting is natural light or incandescent light. It provides just the right amount of illumination to view one’s surroundings. On the other hand, it’s best to avoid cool white or blue white fluorescent lights as they tend to provoke light sensitivity, glare and headaches. The best wall colors to have are pink, peach and warm beige. These colors tend to be easier on the eye and elicit less visual symptoms. Those that work on their computers for extended periods of time may find an ultraviolet or tinted overlay to the screen be helpful as well. For our senior folks, bright incandescent lighting is a must since many of them have some level of media opacities in the form of cataracts. As we know, cataracts limit the amount of light getting into the eye so the visual world appear dimmer to those harboring cataracts.

Remember, a way to improve your daily vision and for better visual health … draw back the window shades to let natural sunlight penetrate through, and turn on and up the incandescent lights in your home.

And P.S. avoid reading in the dark!

~ Judy Tong, O.D., F.A.A.O.
California Optometric Association



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