Updated on 

April 1, 2022

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Blue Light Filter Benefits & Myths

Quick Look

  • Digital devices like computers, televisions, and phones emit blue light
  • The blue light emitted from these devices may not be enough to lead to eye or vision damage, even with long-term exposure
  • Further studies are required to confirm whether blue light emitted from digital devices is harmful
  • Blue light glasses may help with eye strain and other problems related to the eyes — but there is not enough research available to prove this
  • Either way, wearing blue light glasses won’t cause any damage to the eyes

What is Blue Light?

Blue light is a part of the visible light spectrum. This refers to what the human eye can see.

Blue light vibrates within the 380 to 500-nanometer range. It has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy.7

Approximately one-third of all visible light is high-energy visible or ‘blue’ light. Sunlight is the most significant source of blue light.7

Artificial sources of blue light include:

  • Fluorescent light
  • Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs 
  • LEDs
  • Flat-screen LED televisions
  • Computer monitors
  • Tablet screens
  • Smartphones

How Does Blue Light Affect the Eyes?

The eyes are not good at blocking blue light. Nearly all visible blue light passes through the front of the eye via the cornea and lens. 

From here, it reaches the retina. The retina contains cells that convert light for the brain to process into images.

Consistent exposure to blue light may damage retinal cells over time. This may cause vision problems like age-related macular degeneration.

Blue light exposure can also contribute to:

  • Cataracts
  • Eye cancer
  • Growths on the clear covering over the white part of the eye
  • Poor sleeping patterns

Exposure to blue light before sleeping can affect sleep patterns. It affects when our bodies make melatonin.

Children are more vulnerable to blue light than adults because their eyes absorb more blue light from digital devices.

Short-wavelength, high-energy blue light distributes more easily than other visible light. 

Computer screens and digital devices emit a lot of blue light. This reduces contrast and can contribute to digital eye strain.

People also tend to blink less when using digital devices. This can further contribute to eye strain and dry eye.

Other common symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Approximately 27 to 35 percent of people reported experiencing one of these symptoms after using digital devices.7

People are exposed to more blue light than ever because of the everyday use of devices that rely on LED technology.

The following all use LED technologies that emit blue light:

  • Computer and laptop screens
  • Cell phones
  • Tablets 
  • Flat-screen televisions
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Do Blue Light Glasses Work?

Manufacturers claim that blue light glasses filter out blue light. 

Blue light glasses feature filtering materials or surface coating on the lenses to block out blue light. 

People who believe that their eye and vision symptoms are from blue light exposure may wear blue light glasses to reduce their exposure.

Experts can’t rule out an undiscovered risk of chronic, day-long blue light exposure.

However, some experts state that the low levels of blue light coming from devices are not dangerous. This is even with prolonged exposure.6

A 2017 systematic review suggests there is not enough evidence available to support the potential benefits of blue light glasses.5 Some advertisers have even received fines for misleading claims.

Despite the lack of evidence to support the use of blue light glasses, wearing them won’t cause any harm. It’s up to the person whether they want to try blue light glasses.

5 Benefits of Blue Light Filters

Here are 5 benefits of blue light filters:

1. Improves sleep

Exposure to short-wave light from digital devices before bedtime may affect sleep patterns.

A small 2019 study suggests that blue light filter glasses may help treat sleep disorders in people with Parkinson’s disease.1

Other studies also suggest that blue light glasses improve sleep quality and duration.3 Others recommend stopping the use of devices before bedtime completely.4

2. Lessens eye strain

Looking at a screen all day can lead to eye strain. 

Blue light can make it challenging to focus on the screen. This can make your eyes strain to concentrate.

Blue light glasses may help reduce eye strain. They do this by increasing the contrast on your screen. This makes it easier to focus and reduces eye strain.

3. Reduces risk of eye diseases

Your cornea and natural lens are effective at blocking most UV light from reaching the retina. However, they cannot block blue light. 

Damage to the retina can increase your likelihood of developing macular degeneration. This condition is a leading cause of blindness.

Blue light may also increase your risk of developing cataracts. 

Wearing blue light glasses may help prevent the development of these eye diseases.

4. Fewer headaches

Blue light can trigger migraines and worsen headache pain. 

Blocking blue light with special glasses may help lessen migraine attacks and reduce headache pain.

5. Allows you to continue using digital devices

If you’re not prepared to limit the use of your digital devices, blue light glasses may help you continue using them as usual.

3 Blue Light Filter Myths

Here are a few myths about blue light filters:

1. All blue light is bad for you

Blue light associated with digital devices has a bad reputation for causing eye damage.

However, some types of blue light are positive and healthy for our bodies.

Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of seasonal depression. 

In people with SAD, their condition improved when exposed to large doses of blue light during the daytime.

2. Digital eye strain is unpreventable

It is possible to prevent digital eye strain even when staring at screens for long periods. 

Be sure to practice the 20-20-20 rule regularly. This rule suggests that every 20 minutes, you should stare about 20 feet ahead of you for 20 seconds.

Blue light filter glasses may also help with preventing digital eye strain.

3. Blue light is not natural

People learned more about blue light with the introduction of digital devices like laptops and smartphones.

However, blue light exists in nature, too. Natural blue light comes from the sun.

Typically, the body is supposed to absorb a set number of daylight hours. However, when we use electronic devices at night, we affect our circadian rhythms.

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7 Cited Research Articles
  1. Katarzyna Smilowska, Daniel J. van Wamelen, Antonius M. C. Schoutens, Marjan J. Meinders, Bastiaan R. Bloem, "Blue Light Therapy Glasses in Parkinson’s Disease: Patients’ Experience", Parkinson’s Disease, vol. 2019, Article ID 1906271, 4 pages, 2019. 
  2. Chang, Anne-Marie et al. “Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 112,4 : 1232-7.
  3. Ostrin, Lisa A et al. “Attenuation of short wavelengths alters sleep and the ipRGC pupil response.” Ophthalmic & physiological optics : the journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) vol. 37,4 : 440-450.
  4. Living With Blue Light Exposure, Review of Optometry, September 2015
  5. Lawrenson, John G et al. “The effect of blue-light blocking spectacle lenses on visual performance, macular health and the sleep-wake cycle: a systematic review of the literature.” Ophthalmic & physiological optics : the journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) vol. 37,6 : 644-654.
  6. Sheppard, Amy L, and James S Wolffsohn. “Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration.” BMJ open ophthalmology vol. 3,1 e000146. 16 Apr. 2018
  7. Is blue light from your cell phone, TV bad for your health?, UC Davis Health, May 2019
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
Ellie is a full-time freelance writer, producing articles in various fields, including the medical industry. Ellie writes content in the areas of dentistry, addiction, mental health, and optometry. Her mission is to produce authoritative, helpful, and research-backed optometry content to encourage people to look after their eyesight and seek any treatment they need.
https://www.visioncenter.org/author/ellie/
Author: Ellie Swain  | UPDATED April 1, 2022
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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