Computer glasses designed to limit blue light exposure has seen popular demand in the last five years. We see them being used by those that wear prescription glasses and even those who don't have any need for prescription eyewear.
The blue light glasses are marketed for one primary purpose - protecting the user's eyes from harmful blue light, which is emitted from our phones, computers and TV screens.
Harmful blue light has been shown to cause digital eye strain, which includes a collection of signs and symptoms that contribute to headaches and other problems caused by too much screen time.
Let’s take an in-depth look into blue light glasses, and whether or not they actually help our eyes.
Where does blue light come from?
Natural blue light
It is a common thought that blue light only comes from digital screens and other devices.
Before the rise of technology, people have been exposed to blue light. Natural blue light is a form of visible light that is being emitted by the sun.
Artificial blue light
As with the name, the artificial blue light comes from anything other than the sun. This can be from your computer screen, mobile phones and other digital devices.
Even the light bulbs that we use in our homes are all sources of artificial blue light.
What are blue light blocking glasses?
Blue light glasses, or more appropriately called blue light blocking glasses, are a form of optical lenses that serves to lessen or prevent the blue light from entering the eye. As mentioned earlier, you can get these with or without prescription lenses, as they are beneficial to everyone.
What are the effects of blue light?
Although blue light exposure is considered a part of our daily life, prolonged and extensive amounts of exposure can lead to certain effects and damages to both the eye and the brain.
Digital eye strain
One of the most common effects of blue light exposure is experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain. The clinical name is computer vision syndrome.
In the case of digital eye strain, the eye is being put in excess strain in trying to perceive a clearer image due to blue light present in screens and devices.
Blue light is said to decrease the contrast and clarity of images causing the eye to work harder to compensate for the effects of blue light.
Likewise, the wavelength of blue light is also found to cause a perception or a feeling of fatigue on the eyes.
Macular degeneration or retina damage
In clinical studies, the long-term effects of blue light exposure lead to damages inside the eye, specifically in the retina.
It is found that through the duration of our lives when our eyes are exposed to blue light, the damage compounds and leads to a condition called age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) causes irreversible damage to the eye's retinas, which is responsible for our perception of light and our ability to see.
Our circadian rhythm is long known to be based on our perception of day and night - this has found to be because natural blue light is present during the day and absent during nighttime.
The blue light that's perceived by our eyes essentially causes our body to tell our brains that it's still daytime and there isn't any need yet to excrete melatonin - the enzyme that puts us to sleep.
This is the reason why we're most awake during the day, and feel tired at night or in a dark environment (void of blue light).
Likewise, blue light from our light bulbs, computer screens, and digital devices signal our brain the same way as natural blue light. This is the reason why avoiding screen time before going to bed is highly recommended.
What do blue light glasses do?
In theory, blue light glasses serve as a blue light filter by either absorbing the wavelengths of blue light or reflecting it off the surface of the spectacle lens.
The filtering glasses remove a large amount of blue light from what our eyes perceive, to prevent the possible harms of excessive blue light exposure.
Those who use blue light blocking glasses experience a different hue that may seem yellowish or as if seeing life through a sepia filter, although this hue isn’t that noticeable.
The yellowing is an effect of blue light being taken away - yellow and blue light are opposing in the colour balance spectrum.
Since blue light is filtered out, it is said to reduce eye fatigue and relieve symptoms of digital eye strain and computer vision.
In some cases, blue light glasses are also advertised as sleep aids - but, these glasses are calibrated to block more blue light, causing an extreme yellowing of visual perception.
In longer-term studies, it has also shown that wearing blue light glasses can also delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration and other blue light related retina problems.
Do they work?
Whether blue light glasses work or not is hard to tell given they are still relatively new. Some studies point out that blue light glasses only serve a placebo effect on humans, while other studies have shown its effectiveness.
Studies on blue light have been shown to be promising, and likewise, the development of blue light filters and the technology behind the manufacturing of computer glasses are still continuous.
The results of studies surrounding digital eye strain have continually shown promising results, and some ophthalmologists and optometrists recommend having a blue light filter on your prescription glasses when headache or the strained feeling occurs.
As with macular health, studies also show that there is a recognisable effect in terms of preventing macular degeneration.
And for sleep quality, studies also show that the blue light glasses work well enough to still allow the production and excretion of melatonin despite being exposed to blue light.
There's a reason why blue light glasses have seen a rise in demand and popularity. Not only that we are more exposed to artificial blue light more than ever - but the studies are also proving to be promising and useful.
There isn't any harm of wearing one, and the potential benefits of using spectacles with blue light filters give the general population nothing to lose.
At the end of the day, there's no harm in trying out if blue light glasses work for you. If you find that you are getting headaches or tired eyes, go see an optometrist, get your eyes checked to rule out any other issues and see if blue light glasses are right for you.