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Blue-Blocker Glasses: A Myth or Not?

Sarah Kwon Lee, O.D.

Since the pandemic, our lives have never been the same. A majority of us had to stay home in the years of 2020 and 2021. As a result of that, most people including school-aged children started working or studying from home, relying on digital media such as computers, tablets, and phones. As an eye doctor, one of the most frequent comments or questions I have received during my clinic is “my kid is complaining of headaches and eye strain, since the pandemic.” “Are blue blockers effective for eye strain?”

And the short answer is “NO”. Blue blockers gained significant popularity over the last few years due to the advertisement of reducing digital eye strain. Dr. Rosenfield, a professor at SUNY Optometry school recently conducted a study with commercially available blue blockers that typically only block around 20 to 25% of the blue as a double-blind study (where the subjects did not know what lenses they were using). And the blue blockers did not significantly relieve any digital eye strain. While blue blockers can help improve circadian rhythms, thereby helping patients have a better quality of sleep, they had very little impact on relieving symptoms of eye fatigue or strain.

Digital eye strain is actually thought to be caused not by the amount of time we spend on the screens but the way we utilize them such as improper lighting, closer viewing distances, bad posture, screen glare or “uncorrected refractive error or other eye muscle issues or conditions”.

I propose that when you do experience such symptoms while on the screens, try to have frequent breaks – every 20 minutes, you take a break for a few minutes to look at least 20 feet away to the distance. Also, frequent blinking, having a better posture with the back and neck straight, and having better lighting can help reduce eye strain significantly as well. Lastly, I urge you to come in for an eye appointment to make sure your eyes do not have any significant refractive errors or eye muscle alignment issues.

In summary- in order to alleviate digital eye strain

1. The 20,20,20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet for at least 20 seconds.

2. Frequent blinking or use of OTC artificial tears

3. Increase the viewing distance with a phone or a tablet (more than 16 inches away).

4. Low-level and glare-free ambient lighting while working on the computer

5. Come in for an eye exam to make sure your eyes actually don’t need any prescriptions!

Reference 1. Singh, Sumeer, et al. “Do Blue-Blocking Lenses Reduce Eye Strain from Extended Screen Time? A Double-Masked, Randomized Controlled Trial.” Elsevier, American Journal of Opthalmology, 9 Feb. 2021. 2. Rosenfield, Mark, et al. “A Double-Blind Test of Blue-Blocking Filters on Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain.” Work (Reading, Mass.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32007978/. 3. Palavets, Tatsiana, and Mark Rosenfield. “Blue-Blocking Filters and Digital Eyestrain.” Optometry and Vision Science : Official Publication of the American Academy of Optometry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2019. 4. Vimont, Celia. Are Blue Light-Blocking Glasses Worth It? Edited by Rahul Khurana, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 5 Mar. 2021, 5. Gooley, Joshua J, et al. “Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Endocrine Society, Mar. 2011. 6. Figueiro, Mariana G, et al. “The Impact of Light from Computer Monitors on Melatonin Levels in College Students.” Neuro Endocrinology Letters, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011. 7. Wood, Brittany, et al. “Light Level and Duration of Exposure Determine the Impact of Self-Luminous Tablets on Melatonin Suppression.” Applied Ergonomics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2012. 8. Sasseville, Alexandre, et al. “Blue Blocker Glasses Impede the Capacity of Bright Light to Suppress Melatonin Production.” Journal of Pineal Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2006. 9. Roberts, Joan E. “Ultraviolet Radiation as a Risk Factor for Cataract and Macular Degeneration.” LWW, Eye & Contact Lens: Science & Clinical Practice, July 2011. 10. Coroneo, Minas. “Ultraviolet Radiation and the Anterior Eye: Eye & Contact Lens.” LWW, Eye & Contact Lens: Science & Clinical Practice, July 2011. 11. Taylor, H R. “Ultraviolet Radiation and the Eye: an Epidemiologic Study.” Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1989. 12. Duarte, Ida Alzira Gomes, et al. “Ultraviolet Radiation Emitted by Lamps, TVs, Tablets and Computers: Are There Risks for the Population?” Anais Brasileiros De Dermatologia, Sociedade Brasileira De Dermatologia, 2015. 13. Tosini, Gianluca, et al. “Effects of Blue Light on the Circadian System and Eye Physiology.” NCBI, Molecular Vision, 24 Jan. 2016. 14. “Circadian Rhythm Disorders.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5 Sept. 2019.

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