Nowadays, many of us seem to spend more of our waking hours looking at screens than doing anything else. This has led to various concerns, and many people are afraid of what all this screen time might be doing to our eyes. Fortunately, there are currently no known long-term eye-health effects attributed to prolonged screen time. However, eye strain and fatigue have very real short-term ramifications, and we’d like to help our readers avoid as much discomfort as possible. We’ve discussed computer vision syndrome (CVS) in the past, highlighting the benefits of the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on something at least 20 feet away for about 20 seconds). This can be extremely helpful, but it’s not the only measure you can take.
There are four main things you can do to limit your blue-light exposure and ease eye strain: wear computer glasses, upgrade your current glasses to have blue-light-blocking lenses, use software on your computer, phone, or tablet that “filters out” blue light, or refrain from using electronic devices with screens altogether. Since that last option is out of the question for most people in the modern world, we’ll focus on the first three for today:
Blue-light-blocking lens coatings
If you wear prescription eyeglasses, you can have several different special coatings applied to your lenses, one of which can filter out blue light. The main benefit of this coating comes in the evening and nighttime. The blue light emitted by smartphones, televisions, tablets, and computer screens has been shown to inhibit the body’s production of melatonin, a natural chemical that helps regulate sleep. Thus, staring at screens within a few hours of going to bed can disrupt one’s sleep patterns, tricking the brain into entering a sort of “daytime mode.” Blue light has not been shown to damage people’s vision, but its effects on sleep are fairly well-understood. Blue-light-blocking lenses will help many people regulate their sleep schedules, but they aren’t designed to help significantly with eye strain.
Computer glasses usually have blue-light-blocking lenses built in, but they also have slight magnification (though generally not prescription). This is helpful for people who regularly stare at screens for extended periods, as the magnification prevents the eyes from having to strain too much. Although blue light may contribute to eye fatigue to some degree, the main culprit is believed to be the repetitive strain of the viewer’s eye muscles. If you wear contacts or don’t require corrective lenses, you can wear a good pair of magnified, blue-blocking computer glasses without a prescription.
Apps and software
Whether you use an iPhone, Android phone, Windows PC, or Kindle tablet, there’s likely a “night mode” app or piece of software that you can implement on your electronic device(s). If your device was designed within the past few years, there’s a good chance that night mode is already built into its operating system. These apps filter out blue light from your screen, usually giving it a reddish or orangish hue.
Keep in mind that these methods of limiting blue-light exposure and easing eye strain can never be 100% effective. We still advise using the 20-20-20 rule, practicing moderation with screen time, and trying to limit blue light exposure leading up to bedtime. If you’re interested in learning more about maximizing your eye health or any of the many services we offer, contact Georgia Eye Physicians & Surgeons to schedule an appointment today. Be sure to follow Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay on Facebook and Twitter for more eyecare information, fun facts, and the latest news and updates about eye health.