My vision has gotten rapidly worse over the last few years, and my optometrists have told me that basically, it’s because I’m on my phone all the time (not to mention I spend an average of eight hours a day in front of my computer for work). I’m usually one to trust medical professionals, so when the man selling me my new glasses recommended I get special blue-light blocking lenses in order to prevent the continued degradation of my vision, I shilled out the $50 for them.
But I was duped. Bamboozled! Scammed! Swindled!
“The Academy does not recommend any special eyewear for computer use,” reads the American Academy for Ophthalmology website.
“People are very worried that we’re looking at our screens more than we ever did,” Academy spokesman Rahul Khurana told Business Insider. “Everyone is very concerned that it may be harmful to the eye, and it’s a valid concern, but there’s no evidence it may be causing any irreversible damage.”
Near-sightedness is definitely growing: Forty percent of the population today is nearsighted, and that number is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2040. Given the growing use of technology in our daily lives, it would seem that screens are the obvious link, and well, they are — but it’s not the blue light that’s causing the problem. Instead, it’s probably because we’re spending so much time looking at one single object, a fact very much related to the evidence of increased computer use and decreased outdoor play contributing to nearsightedness in children. Because of how our eyes refract light, repeatedly focusing on something close in front of you, like a computer screen, can force your eyes to become “too long” or for your cornea to become “too steeply curved.” It’s this reshaping that specifically causes myopia, or nearsightedness.
But let’s say you have perfect vision, and working on a computer leaves your eyes dry and irritated. Could blue-light blocking lenses help with that? “When I put on the glasses, I get the same relief as sitting in the shade on a hot day,” says Randy, a 23-year-old from Massachusetts. “I can physically see the difference in the light. I think they reduce eyestrain.”
Sorry to say, Randy, but you’ve been had! In an interview with New York magazine, Khurana explains that really, staring at anything for too long can cause your eyes to feel irritated — even a good ol’ fashioned book can cause eye discomfort. To rectify it, Khurana recommends eye drops and frequently refocusing your eyes on a distant object instead.
That said, if you’ve already dropped the money on blue-light blocking lenses or specialty computer glasses, not all hope is lost, as those blockers can actually help when it comes to getting better sleep at night. In particular, blue light has been shown to suppress melatonin, likely because the sun is actually the biggest of all sources of blue light (basically, the light from the sun tells your brain that it’s time to be awake, and blue light from your phone can trigger a similar response). For that reason, some experts do recommend that people wear blue-light glasses if they plan on spending time looking at screens before bed, or if they’re forced to sleep during the day.
Beyond sleep, it’s possible that blue-light blocking glasses also have some benefits that have yet to be conclusively proven. Anecdotally, people report that their eyes feel less strained when wearing the glasses, or that they experience fewer migraines. Maybe the glasses really are helping, or maybe it’s just a placebo.
Do what thou wilt, but I’m just going to continue my descent into blindness with my contact lenses.