Blue light glasses are so the rage we're seeing them on the streets of New York City at local markets — yes, even during the pandemic. Everyone seems to be telling us how crucial they are for our eyes, especially since we're not spending even more time on our computers and smartphones than every before. (And how is that even possible.)
Blue light glasses have been deemed so beneficial, that the market for glasses that block out this light is expected to grow to $28 million by 2024, according to 360 Research Reports. But are they necessary and do they work?
Blue light is just one part of the visible light spectrum Getty Images/iStockphoto
What is blue light?
Blue light refers to a certain wavelength of light, part of the visible spectrum that's squeezed between ultra-violet rays and infrared. Every color has its own wavelength, and blue rays are short while red, for example, is longer.
Blue light comes off many sources from fluorescent lights to LED TVs, the actual sun to yes, your computer screen and a smartphone. It is close on the electromagnetic spectrum, to ultraviolet (UV) light — and this is where much of the concern around blue light stems.
How do blue light glasses work?
Blue light glasses work by tinting the lenses to limit your exposure to blue light. They have coating that absorb that specific wavelength, and depending on the quality of the coating, more blue light is filtered out from your eyes. Do they work? They work at filtering some blue light. But are they necessary? That's another question.
Is blue light dangerous?
We spend nearly 10 hours a day in front of a screen on average a day, according to data from Verizon. And there is evidence that blue light can help stimulate our brains and keep us awake, interfering with our ability to decompress, according to the American Optometric Association. Additionally, others believe that blue light can expose our eyes to unnecessary radiation, and potentially to macular degeneration.
Blue light glasses are thought to be helpful in reducing strain Getty Images/iStockphoto
Blue light can pass through the cornea and hit parts of the eye. When UV light does this, it can over time cause damage to the eye. UV rays of course are what hit the earth from the sun, and it's one of the reasons that experts encourage people to wear properly tinted and coated sunglasses so as to reduce UV-A and UV-B rays hitting the eye.
But blue light exposure is nowhere near as damaging — and not even for the number of hours someone would be spending on their digital devices, even today.
So should I be buying those blue light glasses?
Studies have yet to show any long-term eye damage connected specifically to blue light. The AOA does acknowledge that people can get something called Digital Eye Strain from staring too long at a computer screen. (Which is why you should be getting up from your computer frequently to take a break.) But that's not about blue light directly.
In fact, the Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center notes that more research is needed to see if blue light exposure really does impact eye sight, and macular degeneration over time. Although, they do state that lenses that are surgically put into the eye after cataract surgery have blue light filters built into them.
For now, it's really up to the wearer to decide. Research does not currently support the theory that blue light from your computer and smartphone can directly cause permanent damage to eyes. But if someone feels better buying glasses that filter out this light, that alone may be a good enough reason to pick them up. But maybe not from a street fair.
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