If you’ve ever felt like your eyes were dry and tired after a long day of staring at a computer screen, you’re not alone.
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Wearing blue light glasses may sound like a good solution, but a recent study determined there was little evidence to support the use of blue-blocking filters in the prevention of digital eye strain.
But blue light is known to sabotage your sleep schedule because it messes with your circadian rhythm (AKA your internal clock that tells you when it’s time to sleep or be awake). So if you’re scrolling through your phone late at night or have insomnia, blue light glasses might be a good option.
With most of us unable to escape having to use computers, tablets and phones in our everyday life, how do we handle the negative consequences of digital screens?
Ophthalmologist Nicole Bajic, MD, discusses blue light glasses and what other ways you can prevent digital eye strain.
What are blue light glasses?
Blue light blocking glasses have specially crafted lenses that are said to block or filter out the blue light given off from digital screens. The 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 with eye strain?
It may surprise you, but many eye issues that are caused by digital screens aren’t due to blue light.
Dr. Bajic says many people experience eye discomfort from digital screens, but most of the issues actually fall under a term called computer vision syndrome (CVS). (It’s sometimes also referred to as digital eye strain.) Some symptoms include:
- Watery eyes.
- Dry eyes.
- Blurred vision.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Neck and shoulder pain.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Burning eyes.
- Itchy eyes.
- Hard time keeping your eyes open.
CVS is a broad range of eye strain and discomfort issues. Your eyes are constantly shifting focus and moving while looking at the screen. Plus, the glare and contrast can be tough on your eyes. So, although you may be experiencing eye irritation from a long day working on your computer, your eye discomfort is not directly from the blue light itself.
“When we stare at a digital screen or device for too long, we’re not blinking as often as we normally would, which causes the cornea to become dry and irritated,” says Dr. Bajic. “When we focus our eyes on something close up, like a screen or even a book, our eyes are strained and contracted, which can cause eye discomfort. But if you look ahead to a distant object, our eyes relax.”
Is it bad to wear blue light glasses?
Though blue light glasses aren’t effective at preventing digital eye strain, there is no harm in wearing them.
“It is not harmful to wear them all day,” says Dr. Bajic.
Tips for dealing with digital eye strain
While blue light glasses may not help, here are a few things you can do to provide relief to your eyes.
Wear light sensitivity 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.
The FL-41 tint, which ranges from a pinkish color to an amber-like color, filters out wavelengths of blue and green. Those colors are bothersome to patients with light sensitivity. A study cited photophobia, the medical term for light sensitivity, as the most bothersome symptom for those with migraines.
You can find options for light sensitivity glass online and at most optometrists. While FL-41 tint might not be covered by most insurances, check with your provider.
Practice the 20-20-20 rule
Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
“By looking a further distance away, it forces the eyes to relax by breaking accommodation,” says Dr. Bajic. “It also helps you to blink again at your body’s normal rate.”
Use artificial tears
Using eye drops throughout the day can help keep your eyes lubricated while you work at a computer.
Regular artificial tears should be used no more than four times a day, as the eyes can be sensitive to the preservatives in them. If someone needs to use them more often, they should switch to preservative-free artificial tears.
“Artificial tears are supposed to be used as lip balm or lotion: Most people don’t need them at all, but others need to incorporate them into their routine as needed to be more comfortable,” says Dr. Bajic.
Sit an arm’s length (about 25 inches or 63 centimeters) away from your screen
Most people sit too close to the computer and experience eye strain. Try backing up and increasing the font size on your screen to help with readability.
“People should sit a comfortable distance away from screens,” says Dr. Bajic.
So should you invest in a pair of blue light glasses? When it comes to preventing eyestrain, your best bet is to save your money and practice good screen habits throughout the day instead. However, if you use screens late at night and have trouble falling asleep, they may be a good option.