If you spend a lot of time staring at a screen every day, you’ve probably had your share of eyestrain or headaches. Eyestrain and headaches often are blamed on blue light — the kind of light emitted from screens and most interior lighting — even though they may be caused by many other issues.
Until the advent of electricity and artificial lighting, the main source of lighting was the sun — and people spent their evenings in relative darkness. Nowadays, however, most of the world has access to artificial lighting, so people can work at all hours of the day and night.
But studies show that we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body off its biological clock — the circadian rhythm — and can wreck your sleep. And research has shown that poor sleep may contribute to other health problems, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
What Is Blue Light?
Blue light wavelengths are beneficial during the day because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood. But blue light also may be disruptive at night, and the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our daily exposure — especially after sundown.
Many people have explored the use of blue light-blocking eyeglasses—and a quick search at any online shopping site will yield many brands praised by reviewers. But do blue-light-blocking glasses actually work?
The answer, according to Dr. José-Alain Sahel, a world-renowned ophthalmologist and director of the UPMC Vision Institute: It’s complicated.
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Do Blue Light-Blocking Glasses Work?
Dr. Sahel says he tells patients who ask him if he recommends the glasses for digital use that there isn’t any strong evidence to support their effectiveness — but there’s no harm in trying them. He says that, while blue light filtration is mostly relevant for sunlight, it makes sense that the glasses would help filter light from computers and phones, but no convincing research exists to confirm that it has health benefits.
In fact, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, there isn’t much evidence to support wearing blue light-blocking glasses for daily electronics use.
Studying the Effects of Blue Light
Dr. Sahel and his research team have studied blue light and published their findings, which pinpointed a specific wavelength of light that accelerates damage in supporting cells of the retina. One eyewear company, Essilor, cited this research in its development of a line of blue-light glasses.
Although the long-term benefits are not definitive, Dr. Sahel — who has no personal interest in this product or others — wears his own pair of blue-light filtering glasses, which have a characteristic pink reflection when he shines a light on them.
“The truth is that these glasses don’t filter all of blue light — only a part of it,” he says. “So, they may reduce some of the possible damage, but not all of it.”
His most important piece of advice for all of his patients — especially those with retinal disease — is to turn on the night-mode function of their electronic devices to decrease the amount of blue light emitted. He also says it’s also a good idea to avoid using electronic screens before falling asleep, so you don’t interfere with your body’s natural circadian rhythms.
What Should I Look For?
If you do decide to purchase a pair of blue light-blocking glasses, Dr. Sahel recommends that you check the quality and get advice from your eye care professional before you invest in a customized pair.
If you already wear prescription glasses, ask your eye care professional to add a blue light-blocking filter to your prescription.
As for fit, you should look for the same things you look for in any pair of glasses. Start by choosing frames that are the right size and shape for your face and color that matches your personal style.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
About UPMC Vision Institute
The UPMC Vision Institute is a national leader in the treatment of eye diseases and disorders. We seek to improve and restore your vision to help your quality of life, diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions in both children and adults. Our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We also offer routine eye screenings and have full-scale optical shops. Find an eye expert close to you.