Blue Light: Fact And Fiction

Blue Light Blocking Lenses: Are they worth it?

Companies that make and sell blue light blocking lenses claim that they reduce eye fatigue,  retina damage and headaches from  late nights in front of a computer.  But there is no research behind these claims and the companies that sell these lenses are the ones making these claims. The AAO does not recommend them.  

There has been lots of research on blue light, but none of it supports the idea that glasses with light filter lenses are beneficial.  Are they worth the extra money? Probably not.

What are Blue Light Filter Lenses?

Blue light blocking glasses are glasses fitted with a filter in the lenses that can block or absorb some of the light which is everywhere. Some designs additionally block UV light, similar to sunglasses.

“Blue light” is everywhere, and it is a general term and refers to all the light that falls in the range of 400-495nm.  The “bad” light is only in the 400-430nm range.  The “good” blue light is in the 430-490nm range and we need that to stay healthy and to survive.  Companies claim that we may get more blue light that we need from television screens, laptops, mobile devices, and other electronics on the market.   The average American will spend up to half of their waking lives (42 percent) in front of screens. 

Companies that sell blue light blocking lenses do not distinguish between the good and the bad blue light.

Studies show that too much screen time can have a negative effect on the mind but also impact your eye health. For example, adults who spend hours in front of a computer screen to perform work-related tasks increase the risk of headaches and migraines. However, recent claims by companies that sell blue blocking lenses imply that this light is the leading cause of this and other hazards to people’s eyes.

Some vendors and advertisements about blue-blocking lenses claim to help prevent eye strain. They recommend to wear them during the day and anytime you are sitting in front of a computer or mobile device, especially at night. 

Are Blue Blocking Glasses The Answer?

If blue blocker glasses are the answer, where’s the evidence to support these claims?

Wearing glasses with these lenses can reduce – by a small amount – the total amount of blue light that enters your eyes while you are looking at a screen – good and bad blue light. But, blue light is natural and a necessary part of the light spectrum, and light blocking lenses only block a small amount of the blue light that is entering your eyes.

Why is Blue Light Hazardous?

On a clear, sunny summer day, there’s no avoiding the bright blue sky. While humans have evolved under light from the sun, it was common practice to avoid looking directly into it to preserve eyesight. Nowadays there are new technologies emitting various wavelengths of light and people are staring directly into them for prolonged periods of time. 

The concern of excess blue light comes from the long-term effects of screen exposure, the close proximity of viewing, and the length of time in front of these screens.  

Blue Light: Fact And Fiction 1
Check out this informative video about blue light

What Is Blue Light? Where Does it Come From?

Blue light emanates primarily from the sun, and also from fluorescent lights, Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs, flat-screen LED TVs and screens, LED Lights, computer monitors, smartphones, and tablet screens.

Right now, LEDs are becoming the most popular type of lighting on the market. Chronic exposure to LED lights can have a photo-toxic effect on people’s eyes. A statement from the Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety report says, “accelerate the aging of retinal tissue and contribute to a decline in visual acuity and certain degenerative disease such as age-related macular degeneration.”

While LED lights may have concerns due to blue light, it may be misleading to believe that this is the same issue with computer screens and mobile devices. 

Computer Vision Syndrome

For people who look at screens for an extended period of time, they may suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome. The symptoms associated with this syndrome include eyestrain, tired eyes, redness, irritation, blurred vision, and double vision. To reduce these effects, it’s recommended to install proper lighting, add anti-glare filters, or take regular breaks. More importantly, reduce the amount of time you spend in front of a computer.

However, the amount of harmful light radiation coming from these devices has not been linked to any kind of degenerative eye diseases. The National Library of Medicine published a study that did not find any measurable UVA or UVB radiation from monitors.

Blue Light Impacts Sleep — Or Does It?

Good blue light is required to maintain optimal health.  The body uses light to regulate its circadian rhythm, the natural wake and sleep cycle. If you are exposed to blue light during the day, this helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Too much exposure late at night, such as looking at your smartphone in bed, can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause sleep problems or daytime drowsiness.

Blue filter glasses do block the bad light, as well as the good bluelight.  So it is theoretically possible that blue-blocking lenses may help you; it is equally possible that blocking blue light could hurt you.  There is no research either way.  The main problem is not with the good or bad light, however, it is with our overuse of these devices.

Effects on Children and Teen

Digital eye strain on children and teens is a serious topic these days. One of the main causes of digital eye strain is electronic devices, and bright light especially around bedtime. Symptoms of digital eye strain include strained vision, pain behind the eyes, headaches, dryness in the eyes, and more. Excessive blue light may contribute to this, although there has been no specific research in this area.

What Experts Say About Blocking Blue Light

Emory University

Experts on the subject of blue light, such as Susan Primo, an optometrist, and professor of ophthalmology at Emory University, confirms there isn’t enough evidence to linking harmful light to eye problems. Research suggests that the issue is due to the overuse of digital devices. However, she did mention that some patients who have less blue light exposure do report less eye strain. 

Corporate Litigation

In a decision made in 2016, Boots was fined £40,000 for their false claims that harmful exposure to blue light led to retinal damage over time. They ran ads trying to connect their marketing ideas with their blue light glasses’ ability to  filter out harmful UV rays.

American Academy of Ophthalmology

Even the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) does not recommend the need to wear blue light glasses for using computers or mobile devices. They base their suggestion on a lack of evidence linking electronic light radiation to eye damage eyes or impacting sleep.

“You don’t need to spend extra money on blue light glasses to improve sleep — simply decrease evening screen time and set devices to night mode,” says the AAO

Some websites make the claim, without support, that “Blue light exposure may increase the risk of macular degeneration and does contribute to digital eye strain.”  The AAO, which is the leading eye doctor organization in the U.S., does not agree with the claim that blue light exposure causes eye damage. There have been many articles in the media about blue light, but none have the research to back up their claims.

Talking to CNET, Dr. Raj Maturi, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, explained, “During the day, you get 10 times as much blue light from the sun as you do from your computer screen. Our bodies have evolved to deal with this light.”

American Macular Degeneration Foundation

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) has this to say: “…right now there isn’t much evidence to support wearing blue light blocking lenses for everyday electronics use.  Little evidence currently exists to suggest either that this level of blue light exposure is damaging to the eye or that the current glasses on the market offer any significant protection. “

Center for Applied Vision Research

In addition, a study by the Centre for Applied Vision Research of London and the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences of The University of Melbourne, Australia found no evidence that glasses that block blue light offered any significant protection against eye fatigue, sleep quality, or macular damage.

Can Blue Light Glasses Protect Your Eyes

For people with a sensitivity to blue light, having a pair of blue light glasses may reduce any adverse effects on your eyes. However, any claims that blue blocking glasses can improve sleep, reduce headaches, and prevent eye problems may be misleading due to a lack of evidence to support it. 

If you want to protect your eyes and avoid symptoms of eye strain, the best advice would be to:

  • Reduce the amount of time spent in front of a screen; 
  • Take regular breaks (i.e., 20-20-20 rule: Take breaks every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 meters away for 20 seconds); 

With all the hype in the media, blue light lenses may just provide a placebo effect. Or, perhaps more time is needed for research to discover its benefits. Ultimately, getting a pair of blue light lenses comes down to personal preference. 

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