Article Text

Download PDFPDF
How much blue light should an IOL transmit?
  1. M A Mainster1,
  2. J R Sparrow2
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of Kansas Medical School, Kansas City, KS, USA
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Martin A Mainster PhD, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, MS3009, University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas City, KS 66160-7379, USA;


Older, and even some modern, intraocular lenses (IOLs) transmit potentially hazardous ultraviolet radiation (UVR) to the retina. In addition, IOLs transmit more blue and green light to the retina for scotopic vision than the crystalline lenses they replace, light that is also potentially hazardous. The severity of UVR-blue type phototoxicity increases with decreasing wavelength, unlike the action spectrum of blue-green type retinal phototoxicity and the luminous efficiency of scotopic vision which both peak in the blue-green part of the optical spectrum around 500 nm. Theoretically, UVR+blue absorbing IOLs provide better retinal protection but worse scotopic sensitivity than UVR-only absorbing IOLs, but further study is needed to test this analysis. UVR is potentially hazardous and not useful for vision, so it is prudent to protect the retina from it with chromophores in IOLs. Determining authoritatively how much blue light an optimal IOL should block requires definitive studies to determine (1) the action spectrum of the retinal phototoxicity potentially involved in human retinal ageing, and (2) the amount of shorter wavelength blue light required for older adults to perform essential activities in dimly lit environments.

  • intraocular lens
  • chromophore
  • scotopic vision
  • retinal phototoxicity
  • photic retinopathy
  • macular degeneration
  • blue light
  • ultraviolet radiation

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Supported in part by the Kansas Lions Sight Foundation, Inc (MAM), grant EY-12951 from the National Eye Institute, Bethesda MD (JRS), and a grant from Alcon (JRS).

  • The authors have no proprietary interests in the development or marketing of any product mentioned in this study.

Linked Articles

  • BJO at a glance
    Creig Hoyt