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How does the colour white change as you age

How does the colour white change as you age?

Tuesday 07 June 2022

As we age, our body undergoes innumerable changes, and our eyes are no exception. Chronic eye-conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma all disproportionately affect the older members of society.

Perhaps you already know that we need three times more when we’re 60, than we needed when we were 20. But the amount of light reaching the retina isn’t the only problem. Colour vision is affected as well, so much so that the balance of certain colour distributions will continue to change as we age.

This is because sunlight gradually turns our eyes yellow over time.

Why?

Sunlight is composed of many different colours and wavelengths, but light in the ultraviolet spectrum (380nm to 10nm) can slowly affect our eyes over a number of years. While it has many uses in different industries, ultraviolet light damages human tissue, and is responsible for sunburn.

Two structures are gradually yellowed over time by ultraviolet light – the corneas and the lenses. Both structures then filter light entering our eyes, especially our lenses, and can reduce the range of colours we see significantly. The yellow tinge prevents more cyan, and blue wavelengths from reaching the retina, reducing the colour range reaching your brain. This means that an artificial sepia-tone is added to your sight, washing out everything you see.

This is how the colour of white for older eyes will appear different to the white that younger people see. Typically, the older you are, the yellower your white will appear. Interestingly, in cases where the yellowing is exclusive to the cataracts, you can regain your colour vision with cataract surgery.

Is there anything else we can do?

Daylight replicating bulbs can be an effective means to support your vision, as they can create a focused environment with correctly balanced colours. While they won’t necessarily “fix” your vision, they can make it more comfortable for you to enjoy your hobbies or focus on your work. Using bulbs with a higher colour temperature can alleviate the difficulties, as the white they project is colder or “bluer”. A 4000K bulb, with high colour rendering (CRI of 98+) can make a real improvement to someone with aging eyes.

Sources:

  1. Clarity VG.
  2. NCBI.

Label:

Cataracts

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