Eye care and blue light filters- Facts and fallacies demystified

  • January 21,2021

Human beings are facing the challenge of surviving as well as acclimatizing to the changes imposed due to COVID 19.The physical, psychological and social impact of the disease has been profound. These dark times have ostensibly reset everyone’s priorities. The prospect of enhancing one’s skills through learning platforms as well as improving health by alternative means has fascinated everyone. Immunity boosting agents, health supplements and protective gears’ demand is at an all time high.
As online classes, virtual meetings and entertainment via screen boomed, the need to keep eyes safe is being felt like never before. So much has been talked about blue light filters since this pandemic happened. Social media is flooded with pages describing advantages of these protective eye wear to the extent of means to immortalize eyes. Advertisers are recommending these blue light blocking spectacles for your kid on gadget. Despite being an ophthalmologist, the pearls and perils of digital learning have intrigued me. And the mother in me is constantly trying to find the balance. This article is an attempt to provide evidence based facts and disabuse you of the conflicting information available on your fingertips.
So let us first understand the physics, chemistry and biology behind this confusion. What is blue light? Do gadgets emit blue light? How is it harmful? How does blue light contribute to digital eye strain? Do we really need blue light filters? How to protect our eyes from digital eye strain?
Blue light is the portion of the visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelengths and highest energy ranging from 380 to 500nm.Blue light is emitted by various electronic sources as well as sunlight. Blue light exposure from screens is much less than the amount of exposure from the sun. The amount of blue light from electronic devices, including smart phones, tablets, LCD TVs, LEDs and laptop computers, is not harmful to the retina or any other part of the eye, with respect to short-term exposure.
Blue light affects the body’s circadian rhythm, our natural wake and sleep cycle.  Blue light whether from the sun or from the screens we use—wakes us up and stimulates us. Excessive blue light exposure late at night from phones, tablets or computer screens can disrupt our ability to fall asleep. Hence, limiting screen time one to two hours before bed and using night mode on electronic devices is advisable for minimizing blue light exposure affecting our ability to fall asleep.
Certain amount of blue light can promote refractive development, and prevent the occurrence and development of myopia.
Risk of macular degeneration or blindness by exposure to typical levels of blue light from routine use of consumer electronics is negligible.
The symptoms of digital eye strain (DES) are linked to how we use our digital devices, not the blue light coming out of them. It has been proved in various studies that symptoms of DES do not improve by the use of a BB filter.
Hence, there is currently insufficient evidence to generally recommend blue light filters in prescription spectacle lenses, whether it is for reducing eye fatigue, enhancing sleep, or preserving macular function in the general population. While there is no reason to think blue light filters in spectacle lenses have a negative effect while being worn, the balance of probabilities based on current research points to them not having a beneficial effect either. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) does not recommend blue light glasses — or any other special eyewear for screen use. It states that "many eye symptoms caused by computer use are only temporary and will lessen after you stop using the computer."
If you're suffering from persistent eye strain or soreness, it may be a sign of a more severe condition and you should seek medical advice. Screening for visual acuity and alignment in children and basic eye examination after forty by an ophthalmologist is essential for eye care.
 
 Means to reduce digital eye strain-  

  • Take frequent breaks by using the “20-20-20” rule. Every 20 minutes look away from your screen and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to reset and replenish themselves.
  • Use artificial tears to lubricate your eyes.
  • Keep your distance. Sit about 25 inches or at arm’s length from your screen and adjust its height at a lower level so you’re looking slightly downward at it.
  • Reduce glare and brightness. Devices with glass screens can cause glare. To reduce glare, consider a matte screen filter for your device. Adjusting the brightness and contrast of your screen and dimming the lighting near your screen can also help reduce eye strain.
  • Wear eye glasses as prescribed by an ophthalmologist.
  • Limit screen time in kids-The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends that children must have no screen time at all before age 2, and older kids should have no more than two hours of screen time per day. Additional tips for kids include:
          · Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every other chapter.
          · After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.
          · Avoid using screens outside or in brightly lit areas, where the glare on the screen can create strain.
          · Use good posture when using a screen. Poor posture can contribute to muscle tightness and headaches associated with eye strain.
          · Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away: 18 to 24 inches is ideal.
         ·  Remind them to blink when watching a screen.

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