2020 was supposed to be my year- the year of the eye doctor! 2020- get it? Many eye care professionals were getting ready to implement marketing campaigns that were foolproof. The only way they could fail was if a once-every-100-year pandemic were to wipe out an entire year. And so the story goes…
It seems like everyone wants to talk about blue light blocking glasses lately. In the past two weeks, just about every day someone has asked me my opinion about these. Many are concerned (and rightfully so) because of the increased amount of time everyone is spending in front of computers in this time of virtual working and schooling. My response is usually centered around 3 issues. But before we get to those, let’s review.
Blue light is part of the visible spectrum which comes from sunlight. It is not invisible like UV or infra-red light. With that in mind, spending a day outside or a week at the beach exposes you to billions of times more blue light that your 4 inch phone or other electronic devices.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s tackle the three main issues that the makers of blue light glasses claim can be harmful.
Issue 1- Blue light is compared to UV light in that it can cause or worsen eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. I disagree with this claim. Again, think about how much blue light is emitted from your electronic screen, regardless of how much time you spend in front of it.
Issue 2- Blue light alters our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). Agree. Melatonin is a hormone produced by our brain as it gets dark outside that tells our body”it’s time to go to sleep”. Sunlight (of which blue light is a part of) inhibits melatonin and signals our body to “wake up and get your day started”. Even though I seem to be contradicting myself (regarding the relatively small size of a phone or computer screen), I recommend that people shut down their electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
Issue 3- Blue light can cause digital eye strain (headaches, blurry vision, difficulty focusing, etc.). I’m not so sure I believe this. I DO know that looking at a computer screens and phones all day and night is tough on the eyes. Many factors go into this- the lack of contrast, the “fuzziness” of pixels, glare, reduced blink rate, the size of the screen, the distance at which you view your screen, etc. Computer Vision Syndrome goes back to the old days of CRT monitors, which did NOT give off blue light. I think that people who sit in front of a computer all day should adhere to the 20/20/20 rule, which recommends that every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to allow your eyes to relax.
Blue light related eye fatigue may be a real thing- there is just not enough science behind it to know if it is real or if lens manufacturers are just trying to make a buck. As a colleague says “its the Wild West out there right now”. If you are still in doubt or concerned, do a cheap experiment and purchase a pair of inexpensive blue light glasses (they can be found anywhere) and try them. It can’t hurt. Also, many screens now have a “night-viewing mode” where you can reduce the amount of blue light and make your screen a “warmer”tone.
And lastly, on a personal note, my daughter bought a pair of these glasses a few weeks ago. She “thinks that they help reduce end of the day headaches but she isn’t sure”. I’m interested to hear about your experiences.