Making Sense of Blue Light and Eyestrain

By Audrey Rousseau Dufresne

As a young professional fresh out of university, I had to make some adjustments as I entered the workforce. Surprisingly, the biggest challenge was being in front of a computer all day. You’d think my eyes would be used to it. I mean, it’s 2017: we’re surrounded by screens. But the continuous blue light emitted by my computer screen ended up giving me headaches on a daily basis. I had to talk to my eye care professional and educate myself to find a solution that really worked for me. Here’s what I learned about blue light and the ways you can counter its negative effects.

What is blue light?

The light spectrum looks like a rainbow: red on one side and violet on the other, with orange, yellow, green, and blue in the middle. According to an article in La Presse, visible light isn’t bad for us. But it gets a little more complicated when you move towards the violet end of the light spectrum, because humans are particularly sensitive to the shorter wavelengths of blue light.

Blue light is emitted by the sun, plasma TV screens, smartphones, LCD and CRT screens, and fluorescent lights, among others.

How does blue light affect human health?

Some of the main health risks associated with blue light exposure include sleep disorders, headaches, neck pain, and premature aging of the retina and crystalline lens. Chronic blue light exposure increases the risk of age‑related macular degeneration (AMD)—the main cause of vision loss for adults age 50 and older—as well as premature cataracts.

Blue light also causes eyestrain, which can make it harder to learn or focus at work. The symptoms of eyestrain include blurred vision, a reduced ability of the eye to focus, dry and irritated eyes, headaches, and neck and back pain. According to Blue Light Exposed, nearly 70% of adults who use electronic devices on a regular basis experience symptoms of eyestrain, but many fail to address the situation, often because of a simple lack of awareness. But solutions do exist!

How can you protect yourself from blue light?

Basically, blue light is everywhere. And it can have a real impact on your quality of life. The important thing is to limit prolonged exposure, which can be harmful for your eyes, and to protect your eyes when you are exposed to blue light. In terms of protection, there are a few different options.

Blue Light Filters

A blue light filter can be a good option if you spend several hours a day in front of a computer. It blocks out the harmful end of the light spectrum while letting the good light through. Blue light filters are applied as a coating to your regular glasses to block out blue light. As an indication, here are some options: Zeiss Duravision BlueprotectRecharge from HoyaCrizal Prevencia from Essilor and SeeCoat Blue Premium from Nikon.

Photochromic Lenses

If your working life keeps you on the go and still includes screen time, photochromic lenses such as Transitions lenses can be a good option.

With the arrival of fall, a lot of us tend to stop wearing sunglasses. But UV rays are as strong on cloudy days as they are on sunny ones, no matter the season. Plus, blue light from the sun can be up to 100 times stronger than the blue light from a screen!

Transitions lenses protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays, filter blue light, and reduce glare and eye fatigue. It’s like wearing sunglasses all day, except no one launches into “Sunglasses at Night” when you’re indoors.

Even if your vision is fine, you can give your eyes some love and protect them from blue light. Just pick a pair of non‑corrective lenses designed specifically for working in front of a screen.

The symptoms described above can vary between individuals and have a number of different causes. When in doubt, ask your eye care professional to help you pick a solution that best fits your needs and lifestyle.

For more information or if you have any questions about blue light and how to protect your eyes, talk to an Opto-Réseau optometrist at a clinic near you.