Sunday, February 1, 2009

You Can't Have A Light Without a Dark To Stick It In

Arlo Guthrie turned the idea of darkness on its head with that line. Coming upon this it again recently caused me to think about light and how critical it is, especially for those who have a physical condition that affects vision. As the focus on lighting and low vision becomes stronger through research and eye care practice, see for yourself how lighting can make a difference for you.

We need more light to see as we age, whether or not we also experience a physical condition affecting our vision. Some studies suggest we need six times the amount of light at age 60 to see what we could as a 20-year old. The bottom line is to increase the light and position it close to your project.

Not all light is equal. We are far from the days of candlelight and gaslight; incandescent light has more competition these days, too. The type of light you need depends on you and your condition. This summary of the types of lighting can guide you as you select an option to help you maneuver through the challenges of low vision.

Incandescent Lighting is artificial lighting, the invention of which is generally attributed to Thomas Edison. Some historians suggest there were at least twenty-two other inventors who contributed to the ultimate electric lighting system that Edison put together. Its output is located at the lower end of the light spectrum, the red/yellow spectrum. For this reason, incandescent light cannot be engineered to become full spectrum, in spite of the various coatings that manufacturers have used throughout the years to create the illusion of “brighter” light. With that said, however, incandescent, or yellow light, is sometimes just the right solution for some people.

Halogen Lighting uses the basic principles of incandescent lighting, although the effect is a stronger and more focused lighting solution. Halogen lighting creates less heat and more intensity. I have seen personally the positive reaction of some when they shift their lamp to halogen.

LED (light emitting diode) Lighting uses the blue and violet end of the light spectrum. Sometimes referred to as “blue” light, the effect is whiter and brighter when compared to incandescent and halogen lighting. Depending on the ambient lighting, LED light can seem to cut through the dimness and illuminate a surface more dramatically. For some, it might be too much, in fact.

Fluorescent Lighting is used most frequently in public places. The introduction of the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) is bringing fluorescent lighting to more homes, offices and businesses. In most cases, it emits a warm, bright light. CFLs eliminate two of the most inconvenient aspects of fluorescent lights, humming and flickering.

Full Spectrum Lighting is emerging today as a primary focus for lighting manufacturers. Modern technology uses the full spectrum of sunlight to create a lighting effect that washes the area with bright light that is not harsh. When you use a lamp emitting full spectrum light, you may notice more even light on the surface, although some report otherwise. Some research even points to additional health benefits from full spectrum lighting, suggesting that because it includes ultraviolet light which helps produce Vitamin D in the body, the use of this lighting can help with overall health. The key, however, is that the ultraviolet light must be in the same proportion as it is in sunshine. Be sure to discuss the use of full spectrum light with your eye care provider. The technology is still fairly new and research is still in progress.

The issue of glare is a big one for people with retinal diseases and other conditions that cause low vision. The ability to adjust the light is crucial. Use lamps that swivel or bend. Some other tips:

  • Try using solar filter lenses to help control glare with indoor lighting, and always use them when you are in daylight. Protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Remember to experiment with lighting. Bring a book or crafts with you when you shop for lighting to see how a familiar activity changes as you introduce different lighting options.
  • Make a tour around your home and look for opportunities to enhance lighting.

Bring the light and see more clearly! Share your ideas about lighting with us.

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