Computer glasses (sometimes called "computer reading glasses" or "reading glasses for computer use") have become a popular topic in the eyeglasses world, due to some new companies that are promoting special coatings. To understand what computer glasses are, we need to first understand the problems they are trying to solve. The problems that computer glasses are designed to relieve are digital eye strain, blurred vision, red eyes, dry eyes, and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome. To relieve these symptoms, here are three main benefits of computer glasses:
1) They are designed for a 20" to 26" distance from the computer. This is NOT the "reading" distance of 10" to 14", nor the distance vision distance of over 36".
2) Anti-reflective coating can cut down on glare from computers, and
3) Blue light blocking lenses can cut down on harmful blue light.
Computer Vision Distance - Get It Right!
Computer glasses can only resolve vision problems if you have the right prescription strength. No amount of coatings will help you if your computer eyewear is not tuned to the vision correction needs of your eyes. If you pick a pair that "seems" right to you from a drugstore, you are not going to solve the distance problem, and you will continue to experience digital eye strain and its effects. To do it right, this requires a visit to an eye doctor near you. Your eye doctor can issue a prescription for near, intermediate, and distance vision. You can then decide what types of prescription lenses you need for your lifestyle.
For example, single vision lenses, progressive lenses, and bifocal lenses can all be used for computer glasses. Single vision lenses are the most common, and the new computer glasses brands were developed this way, primarily as gaming glasses. Gamer glasses are "off the shelf", meaning that they do not require a prescription. Again, if you "self diagnose" the power of computer glasses for yourself, you will not be solving your problems, and you may end up spending more money in the end. Prescription computer glasses are a much more effective way to handle digital eye strain, and computer vision syndrome.
Computer Vision Syndrome
For people who look at computer screens for an extended period of time, they may suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome. The symptoms associated with this syndrome include eyestrain, tired eyes, redness, irritation, blurred vision, and double vision. To reduce these effects, it’s recommended to install proper lighting, add anti-glare filters, or take regular breaks. More importantly, reduce the amount of time you spend in front of a computer.
However, the amount of harmful light radiation coming from these devices has not been linked to any kind of degenerative eye diseases. The National Library of Medicine published a study that did not find any measurable UVA or UVB radiation from monitors.
Do Blue Light Blocking Lenses Really Work?
Blue light blocking glasses are glasses fitted with a filter in the lenses that can block or absorb some of the light which is everywhere. Some designs additionally block UV light, similar to sunglasses. Once you have your prescription, you can add a blue light blocking coating to your lenses to make glasses that block blue light. We always recommend Crizal Prevencia, which blocks blue light, has an anti-reflective coating, a super hard coating, and a two year anti-scratch warrantee. There is no finer way to treat your eyes than Crizal Prevencia.
Wearing blue light blocker glasses with these lenses can reduce – by a small amount – the total amount of blue light that enters your eyes while you are looking at digital screens – good and bad blue light. But, blue light is natural and a necessary part of the light spectrum, and light blocking lenses only block a small amount of the blue light that is entering your eyes.
What Is Blue Light?
“Blue light” is everywhere, and it is a general term and refers to all the light that falls in the range of 400-495nm. The “bad” light is only in the 400-430nm range. The “good” blue light is in the 430-490nm range and we need that to stay healthy and to survive. Companies claim that we may get more blue light that we need from television screens, laptops, mobile devices, and other electronics on the market. The average American will spend up to half of their waking lives (42 percent) in front of screens.
Studies show that too much screen time can have a negative effect on the mind but also impact your eye health. For example, adults who spend hours in front of a computer screen to perform work-related tasks increase the risk of headaches and migraines. However, recent claims by companies that sell blue blocking lenses imply that this light is the leading cause of this and other hazards to people’s eyes.
On a clear, sunny summer day, there’s no avoiding the bright blue sky. While humans have evolved under light from the sun, it was common practice to avoid looking directly into it to preserve eyesight. Nowadays there are new technologies emitting various wavelengths of light and people are staring directly into them for prolonged periods of time. The concern of excess blue light comes from the long-term effects of screen exposure, the close proximity of viewing, and the length of time in front of these screens.
What Is Blue Light? Where Does it Come From?
Blue light emanates primarily from the sun, and also from fluorescent lights, Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs, flat-screen LED TVs and screens, LED Lights, computer monitors, smartphones, and tablet screens.
Right now, LEDs are becoming the most popular type of lighting on the market. Chronic exposure to LED lights can have a photo-toxic effect on people’s eyes. A statement from the Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety report says, “accelerate the aging of retinal tissue and contribute to a decline in visual acuity and certain degenerative disease such as age-related macular degeneration.”
While LED lights may have concerns due to blue light, it may be misleading to believe that this is the same issue with computer screens and mobile devices.
Blue Light Impacts Sleep — Or Does It?
Good blue light is required to maintain optimal health. The body uses light to regulate its circadian rhythm, the natural wake and sleep cycle. If you are exposed to blue light during the day, this helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Too much exposure late at night, such as looking at your smartphone in bed, can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause sleep problems or daytime drowsiness.
Blue filter glasses do block the bad light, as well as the good bluelight. So it is theoretically possible that blue-blocking lenses may help you; it is equally possible that blocking blue light could hurt you. There is no research either way. The main problem is not with the good or bad light, however, it is with our overuse of these devices.
Anti-Reflective, No Glare Computer Glasses
Anti-reflective coating added to computer glasses helps to cut down on the glare that enters your eyes from the computer screen, and any other light sources that may be in the room. For example, if your computer room has many windows, during the day it will be filled with ambient light bouncing around, and no-glare glasses will help to reduce that light from entering your eyes. Glare entering your eyes causes eye fatigue, and actually reduces visual acuity because it blocks your eyes from seeing clearly.
Can Blue Light Glasses Protect Your Eyes
For people with a sensitivity to blue light, having a pair of blue light glasses may reduce any adverse effects on your eyes. However, any claims that blue blocking glasses for the computer can improve sleep, reduce headaches, and prevent eye problems may be misleading due to a lack of evidence to support it.
If you want to protect your eyes and avoid symptoms of eye strain, the best advice would be to:
- Reduce the amount of time spent in front of a screen;
- Take regular breaks (i.e., 20-20-20 rule: Take breaks every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 meters away for 20 seconds);
- Wear the appropriate eyewear, especially for any prescription glasses.
With all the hype in the media, blue light glasses for computer may just provide a placebo effect. Or, perhaps more time is needed for research to discover its benefits. Ultimately, getting a pair of blue light lenses comes down to personal preference.