If you’ve ever had the feeling that your eyes are dry and tired after a long day staring at a computer screen, you’re not alone.
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Wearing blue-blocking glasses may seem like a good solution, but a recent study determined that there was little evidence to support the use of blue-blocking filters in the prevention of digital eye strain.
But blue light has been known to sabotage your sleep schedule because it disrupts your circadian rhythm (aka your internal clock which tells you when it’s time to sleep or be awake). So if you are scrolling through your phone late at night or suffering from insomnia, blue light blocking glasses can be a good option.
With most of us unable to escape the use of computers, tablets and phones in our daily lives, how do we deal with the negative consequences of digital screens?
Ophthalmologist Nicole Bajic, MD, discusses blue light glasses and other ways to prevent digital eye strain.
What are blue light glasses?
Blue light blocking glasses have lenses specially designed to block or filter the blue light emitted by digital screens. Lenses are often marketed with lofty claims that they protect your eyes from eye strain and can help reduce potential damage to your retina from prolonged exposure to blue light.
Can blue light glasses help fight eye strain?
It may surprise you, but many eye problems caused by digital screens are not due to blue light.
Dr Bajic says many people experience eye discomfort from digital screens, but most of the problems actually fall under a term called computer vision syndrome (CVS). (It is sometimes also called digital eye strain.) Some symptoms include:
- Dry eyes.
- Blurred vision.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Pain in neck and shoulders.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Burning eyes.
- Itchy eyes.
- Difficult to keep your eyes open.
CVS is a wide range of eye strain and discomfort problems. Your eyes constantly change focus and move while looking at the screen. Additionally, glare and contrast can be difficult on your eyes. So even though you may experience eye irritation after a long day of working on your computer, your eye discomfort is not directly from the blue light itself.
“When we stare at a screen or digital device for too long, we don’t blink as often as we normally would, which makes the cornea dry and itchy,” says Dr Bajic. “When we focus our eyes on something up close, like a screen or even a book, our eyes are strained and contracted, which can cause eye discomfort. But if you look in front of a distant object, our eyes relax.
Is it bad to wear blue light blocking glasses?
Although blue light glasses are not effective in preventing digital eye strain, there is nothing wrong with wearing them.
“It is not dangerous to wear them all day,” says Dr Bajic.
Tips to fight digital eye strain
While blue light blocking glasses may not help, here are a few steps you can take to ease your eyes.
Wear light-sensitive glasses
“If someone has light sensitivity due to migraines or other light sensitive conditions, they can get an FL-41 tint, which is a better option than blue light glasses,” says Dr. Bajic.
FL-41, which ranges from a pinkish to amber color, filters the wavelengths of blue and green. These colors are annoying for light sensitive patients. One study cited photophobia, the medical term for sensitivity to light, as the most troublesome symptom for migraine sufferers.
You can find options for light sensitive glass online and at most optometrists. Although FL-41 may not be covered by most insurance, check with your supplier.
Practice the 20-20-20 rule
Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
“Looking at a greater distance forces the eyes to relax by breaking the accommodation,” says Dr Bajic. “It also helps you blink your eyes again at your body’s normal rate.”
Using artificial tears
Using eye drops throughout the day can help keep your eyes lubricated while you are working on a computer.
Ordinary artificial tears should not be used more than four times a day, as the eyes may be sensitive to the preservatives they contain. If someone needs to use them more often, they should switch to preservative-free artificial tears.
“Artificial tears are meant to be used as a lip balm or lotion: most people don’t need them at all, but others have to incorporate them into their routine as needed to be more comfortable,” explains Dr. Bajic.
Sit an arm’s length (approximately 25 inches or 63 centimeters) from your screen
Most people sit too close to the computer and experience eye strain. Try saving and increasing the font size on your screen to improve readability.
“People should be seated at a comfortable distance from screens,” says Dr Bajic.
So should you invest in a pair of anti-blue light glasses? When it comes to preventing eye strain, your best bet is to save your money and practice good screen habits throughout the day. However, if you use screens late at night and have trouble falling asleep, they can be a good option.