You’re probably doing it right now — looking at a computer, phone, or tablet that emits blue light.
Staring at any of these for an extended period of time can lead to computer vision syndrome (CVS), a unique type of eyestrain that causes symptoms like dry eyes, redness, headaches, and blurry vision.
One solution that eyeglass manufacturers have proposed is blue-light-blocking glasses. These are purported to block the potentially harmful blue light that electronics emit. But whether these glasses actually reduce eyestrain is controversial.
Keep reading to find out more about whether these glasses are right for you.
Blue light is a wavelength that’s naturally present in light, including light from the sun. Compared to other light types, blue light has a short wavelength. This is important because doctors associate short-wavelength light with greater risk for eye damage.
While many electronics (including lightbulbs) emit blue light, computer screens and televisions typically release more blue light than other electronics. This is because computers and televisions commonly use liquid crystal displays or LCDs. These screens may look super-clear and vibrant, but they also release more blue light than their non-LCD counterparts.
Too much blue light exposure is thought to:
- affect your circadian rhythm, which can make it harder to go to sleep at night
- cause headaches
- increase eyestrain
- cause visual fatigue
Blue light isn’t all bad, though. Because this wavelength is produced by the sun, it can promote alertness, signaling that it’s time to get up and start your day.
And a lot of studies on blue light and eye damage have been conducted on animals or in controlled laboratory settings. This makes it hard to know exactly how blue light affects humans in real-life scenarios.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, blue light from electronic devices won’t lead to eye disease. They endorse using other approaches to improve your sleep, such as avoiding screens altogether in the hour or two before going to bed.
In an attempt to reduce the possible harm and potentially negative effects of extended blue light exposure, eyeglass manufacturers have developed eyeglass lenses with special coatings or tints designed to reflect or block blue light from reaching your eyes.
The idea behind blue-light-blocking glasses is that wearing them can reduce eyestrain, eye damage, and affected sleep. But there isn’t a lot of research to back up the claim that the glasses actually do this.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing eyeglasses in general as an alternative to contact lenses if you’re going to spend an extended amount of time looking at an electronic device. This is because glasses are less likely to cause eye dryness and irritation associated with extended contact lens use.
In theory, blue-light-blocking glasses help reduce eyestrain. But this hasn’t been definitively proven by research.
A small study from 2017 measured 36 test subjects wearing blue light glasses or a placebo. The researchers found that those who wore the blue light glasses for a 2-hour computer task experienced less eyestrain, eye itching, and eye pain compared to those who did not.
But other researchers have criticized this study because it had the potential for bias.
A 2021 study of 120 participants asked the participants to wear either blue-light-blocking or clear glasses and perform a task on the computer that lasted 2 hours. When the study was over, the researchers didn’t find a difference in eyestrain between the two groups.
Blue-light-blocking glasses are available as:
- prescription lenses
- over-the-counter (OTC) reading glasses
- glasses that are only used for the purpose of blocking blue light
OTC blue-light-blocking glasses can range in price from $13 to $60. Prescription blue-light-blocking glasses are more expensive. The price will depend on the type of frames you choose and may range from $120 to over $200.
If you have medical insurance and need prescription blue-light-blocking glasses, your insurance plan may cover part of the cost.
While blue-light-blocking glasses are available in many retail stores, they aren’t endorsed by major eye professional societies.
But if you would like to try out blue-light-blocking glasses for yourself, here are some considerations:
- Where to buy: You can buy blue-light-blocking glasses at many major retailers that sell sunglasses. Some online eyeglass brands, such as Warby Parker and EyeBuyDirect, offer a blue-light-blocking coating on their prescription eyeglasses.
- UV protection: If you’ll be spending time outdoors with your blue-light-blocking glasses, make sure they have UV protection.
- Comfort: As with many glasses brands, comfort is a major consideration. Look for lightweight glasses that don’t pinch the bridge of your nose, don’t slide down your nose, or feel too tight behind your ears.
If you aren’t sure if blue light glasses are beneficial or right for you, you may want to start off with a low cost pair that’s comfortable to wear.
The effectiveness of blue-light-blocking glasses isn’t backed by a lot of research. But if you spend a lot of time in front of your computer or watching television, you may still want to try them to see if they help reduce eyestrain and improve symptoms like dry eye and redness.
You can also help reduce eyestrain by taking 10-minute rest breaks from your computer or digital device every hour, using eye drops, and wearing glasses instead of contact lenses.
If you’re concerned about eyestrain, talk with a doctor or ophthalmologist about other beneficial ways to help reduce any eyestrain symptoms you may have.