Makers of blue-light-blocking glasses proclaim they can help reduce eye strain when looking at smartphones and computer screens for long periods of time. But an Australian-based study said these claims are not backed by science.
The University of Melbourne published its study of 17 randomized controlled trials. Claims that blue-light glasses help improve sleep and protect against damage to the retina were not supported.
Researchers said the study included 619 people from six countries.
“We found there may be no short-term advantages with using blue-light filtering spectacle lenses to reduce eye strain associated with computer use, compared to non-blue-light filtering lenses,” University of Melbourne associate professor Laura Downie said. “It is also currently unclear whether these lenses affect vision quality or sleep-related outcomes, and no conclusions could be drawn about any potential effects on retinal health in the longer term."
The data backs up claims made by the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2021.
"Ads for these glasses claim overexposure to blue light can cause a number of problems, including digital eye strain, sleep cycle disruption, or even blinding eye diseases," the American Academy of Ophthalmology wrote. "There is no scientific evidence that the light coming from computer screens is damaging to the eyes. Because of this, the Academy does not recommend any special eye wear for computer use."
The American Academy of Ophthalmology said strain caused by screens isn't caused by the light emitted by screens, but how people focus on screens. Simply put, wearing glasses is not going to fix how people look at screens.
Researchers note that people see far more blue light from the sun than from computer screens.
“It’s also worth bearing in mind that blue-light filtering lenses typically filter out about 10-25% of blue light, depending on the specific product. Filtering out higher levels of blue light would require the lenses to have an obvious amber tint, which would have a substantial effect on color perception,” said Sumeer Singh, a postdoctoral research fellow who reviewed the data.
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Cleveland Clinic OphthalmologistNicole Bajic said these glasses aren't harmful, but simply don't do much to help eye strain.
"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," Bajic said. "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."
Tips to avoid eye strain
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these tips to avoid eye strain:
- Sit about 25 inches (arm's length) from the computer screen. Position the screen so you are gazing slightly downward.
- Take regular breaks using the “20-20-20” rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- When your eyes feel dry, use artificial tears to refresh them.
- Adjust your room lighting and try increasing the contrast on your screen. Use a matte screen filter if needed.
- If you wear contact lenses, give your eyes a break by wearing your glasses.
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