Do blue light glasses keep eye issues at bay?

The lockdown has led to increased screen time and I get frequently asked about these blue light blocking glasses.

Three things you must understand:

1) Blue light is part of white light or visible spectrum. It has a shortest wavelength but the highest energy. Blue light is next to the UV spectrum. Eyes are good at blocking UV light but not so much the blue light. So blue light can enter the eye and hit the retina. Blue light is available in abundance because it’s in sunlight. It is also present when we look at phones and iPads and computers.

2) ARMD is age related macular degeneration. It is degeneration of one layer of cells in the retina and age is the biggest risk factor. There are many other factors, Nutritional deficiencies, genetics, environment etc.

3) Blue light excites us and makes us more alert and also reduces the levels of the hormone melatonin. This hormone helps us sleep better.

People are saying wearing blue light blocking glasses reduces the risk of macular degeneration (ARMD). Now, ARMD is caused by many factors and blue light is only one factor. It’s not even possible to do a study to prove that if one wears these glasses, ARMD would not occur. So, I don’t think one should start wearing blue glasses just to avoid ARMD.

The second thing associated with blue light is having trouble falling asleep. The logic is that by blocking blue light the melatonin levels stay increased and we are able to fall asleep easier. In fact, studies prove that melatonin levels are higher in those wearing blue blocking glasses. So, will you start falling asleep like a baby just because you start wearing these glasses? I doubt that.

Not falling asleep is a big issue and I think it’s important to solve the core issues first. And that is all of us using phones for hours before sleeping. Not falling asleep has also got a lot to do with mental chatter or noise. To mention one strategy to calm your mind is to have a closing routine before the day end.

Think of all the tasks that are to be done and all the emails to be replied to and make a note that you will do it in the morning. This lets your mind know that these tasks will be done in the morning and the noise associated with those tasks reduces.

Coming back to blue blocking glasses, people say they cause less eye strain. Now quite a few friends of mine of around my age, which is 43, are in denial that they have reading glasses. So they continue to struggle to see the computer or read a book or look at their phone, but choose not to wear glasses. To my mind not wearing reading glasses is a bigger reason for eye strain than blue light. And the reason why these glasses are known to cause less eye strain is because these glasses have a reading prescription in them.

To summarise, do I think you should wear them, sure go ahead it’s your choice and there is no harm done for sure. Are they critical? Definitely not. Should children start wearing them to protect their eyes? Of course, not. It would just be totally unnecessary. They should stop wasting their time on the phone for hours and hours in a day. I personally believe that during these times you should focus on your sleep habits, your phone addiction habit and use this time to learn meditation, a proven technique to calm your mind.

(Dr Deepak Garg is a Cataract and Squint specialist and Founder of Eye Solutions, Mumbai)

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