Flashlight in eyes: Can artificial light cause blindness?
Can a flashlight damage your eyes?
The light from a standard flashlight with an incandescent bulb can’t damage your eyes. These types of flashlights (the kind you may have in your home) have a low lumen output. Lumens measure how bright a light is; the more lumens, the brighter the light.
Some flashlights are powered by an LED (light-emitting diode) bulb. LEDs are popular because they’re energy-efficient and affordable. While standard LED flashlights won’t injure your eyes, high-powered LED flashlights can be dangerous. If you shine a high-powered LED flashlight into your eyes, it can cause temporary blindness, and you could fall or have an accident until your vision returns to normal.
Can a phone flashlight damage your eyes?
Like standard flashlights, phone flashlights typically have a low lumen output and should not cause eye damage. As with LED flashlights, there isn’t enough evidence to show that a phone flashlight is necessarily bad for your eyes. However, it’s best not to look directly into any light source, and if a certain light is causing your eyes discomfort, you should avert your gaze.
What intensity of light can your eyes handle?
Your eyes are very sensitive to both visible and invisible light, and most types of light can cause damage. The brightness of the light and the length of time someone is exposed determine how much eye damage may occur. However, even a dim light, such as a reading light, can lead to ocular side effects if you stare directly into it for more than a few seconds.
For example, bright sunlight can quickly cause harm, even during an eclipse. But permanent eye injury can also happen if your eyes are directly exposed to lower light over a longer period of time (days or weeks). This is called photo-oxidative damage and it happens when light reaches the retina and causes inflammation.
Here are some other eye issues and conditions that are related to excess light exposure:
Regardless of the level of brightness or intensity of light your eyes may be able to “handle,” it’s not worth the risk of potential damage to test your limits. Always wear sunglasses outside and protective eyewear when working around bright lights, flashes or other optical hazards.
SEE RELATED: Is sun gazing safe for the eyes?
What about blue light?
Blue light is a type of light you can see on the visible light spectrum. Your eyes have difficulty filtering blue light, which allows it to reach and possibly damage the retina. Over time, this can potentially cause age-related macular degeneration, a serious condition that gradually leads to blurry vision.
While most blue light comes from the sun, plenty of other sources also emit blue light, such as smartphones, computers, tablets and LED lights. An issue commonly associated with this “digital” blue light is digital eye strain. This can cause dry eye, eye fatigue, headaches and other discomfort. It’s also believed that excess blue light can disrupt natural sleep patterns.
Are ring lights bad for your eyes?
If you use a computer or phone camera for attending virtual meetings, making videos or posting photos to social media, you may be familiar with ring lights. A ring light diffuses light to get rid of shadows so you’ll look better on camera.
There is a wide variety of ring lights available to suit your needs, and they typically differ in size, brightness/dimmability and configuration. Here are a few examples:
A 6-inch ring light with a maximum brightness of 114 lumens (from 36 inches away) is about as bright as a 15-watt incandescent light bulb.
A 10-inch ring light with a maximum brightness of 240 lumens (from 36 inches away) is about as bright as a 25-watt incandescent light bulb.
An 18-inch ring light with a maximum brightness of 2,065 lumens (from 36 inches away) is as bright as a 150-watt incandescent light bulb.
Ring lights are made up of LED lights, so, similar to your phone’s flashlight, it’s unlikely you would damage your eyes using one. However, if you use the full 2,065-lumen brightness of the 18-inch ring light listed above, you may need to wear sunglasses to keep from squinting!
Can flash photography cause retina damage?
No, a camera’s flash cannot damage your retina. While the brightness from a camera flash can cause a brief loss of vision, the light isn’t strong enough to permanently harm your eyes.
Even with a very bright flash from something like an explosion, your vision will start to return to normal in three to 10 minutes during the day. It will take longer at night when your eyes need more time to adjust.
Can laser pointers permanently damage your eyes?
The more powerful a laser pointer is, the more damage it can do to your eyes. Lasers, especially those stronger than five milliwatts, can quickly cause serious and sometimes permanent damage to the retina, making it harder for you to see clearly.
The main optical hazards associated with lasers include:
Laser burns, including retinal burns
Symptoms of laser burn include:
Excess eye watering
Rapid onset of eye floaters
The level of damage depends on the strength of the laser and the length of time your eyes are exposed to it, meaning your eye’s blink reflex (or aversion response) is able to afford some protection.
The FDA requires that most lasers have a label showing how powerful the laser is, along with warnings about using it. Even with a warning label, it can be hard to understand just how powerful (and dangerous) a laser pointer is. Stronger lasers known as “handheld lasers” can look a lot like a five-milliwatt laser pointer but can be up to 400 times more powerful.
To help avoid eye injuries, you should:
Never point a laser at anyone or shine it into your own eyes.
Keep laser pointers away from children.
Only use laser pointers labeled as Class 2 or Class 3A, with no more than five milliwatts in strength.
The FDA has information to help identify what kind of laser pointer you have, along with tips about using it safely.
READ NEXT: How to prevent eye injuries
Can a flashlight harm your eyes? American Academy of Ophthalmology. February 2013.
Are LED lights damaging your retina? Cleveland Clinic. August 2019.
Age-related macular degeneration. National Eye Institute. June 2021.
Light and eye damage. American Optometric Association. December 2014.
Are bright lights dangerous to the eye? BrightFocus Foundation. July 2021.
Blue light and your eyes. Prevent Blindness. Accessed February 2022.
Protect your eyes from bright light, including blue. BrightFocus Foundation. August 2021.
Age-related macular degeneration. National Eye Institute. June 2021.
Best ring lights of 2022. GearLab. January 2022.
Is it possible to blind a baby with a camera flash? Yahoo News. July 2015.
Flash blindness. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. August 2021.
Laser pointer safety. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Accessed February 2022.
Laser pointer safety. University of Washington. April 2017.
Building blocks of laser safety. Manual of Laser Safety. December 2020.
Laser pointer retinal injuries. Retina Today. April 2015.
Is your laser pointer dangerous enough to cause eye injury? American Academy of Ophthalmology. June 2018.
Illuminating facts about laser pointers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. June 2019.
Page published on Thursday, February 24, 2022