“Digital lenses” – not just a fad

Optometrists suggest that using glasses with lenses that filter out blue light from digital screens and LEDs can alleviate strain caused by computer usage and even potentially protect your retinas from long-term damage.

So-called “computer glasses” are currently in vogue and these purple-blue coated lenses can be spotted in open plan offices around the world. But aside from looking cool, the glasses serve an important purpose – they alleviate the eye strain caused by continuous computer or tablet use and filter out blue light emitted by LED lighting and digital screens. This, in turn, helps people to get a better night’s sleep and may even protect them against the formation of cataracts or long-term retina damage that could result in macular degeneration.

What’s so bad about blue light?
Blue light is part of the normal light spectrum that we experience on earth every day. It’s also known as high energy visible (HEV) light. This light has a very short wavelength and therefore produces a higher amount of energy.

While exposure to blue light is not bad in itself, overexposure can cause damage to your retinas over the long term. A Harvard medical study points out that “HEV blue light has been identified for years as the most dangerous light for the retina. After chronic exposure, one can expect to see long range growth in the number of macular degenerations, glaucoma and retinal degenerative diseases.”

In our modern world, we are exposed to blue light not just through sunlight, but inside and at night too. LED lighting in buildings and all high definition screens, including computer screens, TV screens and cellular phones, which also use LED light, emit a high proportion of blue light.

Much has been written recently about the effects of this blue light in suppressing the production of melantonin and disrupting the body’s circadian rhythms (which affects sleeping patterns and overall health). But now scientists and optometrists are also cautioning that the increased exposure to blue light may damage your eye health.

Managing blue light exposure
Andre Horn, senior optometrist and Mellins i-Style’s managing director, explains that one way to limit blue light exposure is to choose spectacles with proper anti-reflective coating, which specifically eliminates the blue-violet light emitted from LEDs, TVs, computers and tablet screens. He says that Zeiss offers such a product, DuraVision BlueProtect, which ensures that the glare from digitals screens is less harsh on the eyes.

There are also apps available for mobile devices that help to minimise the blue light emitted, including Bluelight Filter for Eye Care, EyePro-Blue-Light Filter and f.lux.

How “computer glasses” help
Horn says however, that the most effective “computer glasses” are actually anti-fatigue or accommodative support lenses, with the added purple-blue coating.

Accommodative support lenses are designed to support “near focus” ability. They are especially effective for people in their 30s and early 40s who are experiencing near vision discomfort for the first time. Horn explains that they are designed to support the ciliary muscle. This makes it easier for the wearer to switch vision between near and distance focal ranges and may help to prevent blurred vision, tired or dry eyes and neck strain.

For people older than 40, Horn recommends investigating bifocals or multifocal lenses, which will help if focusing on things that are close by is a challenge.

Four important tips for better eye health at the office
Even with lenses that help filter out blue light, you may still experience eye strain (which in turn can cause headaches and fatigue) at the office if you’re unaware of your bad eye health habits.

Mellins i-Style, has compiled some tips for better workplace eye health:

1. Follow the 20/20/20 rule: Take a 20 second break from your digital screen every 20 minutes to relax your eyes, by focusing on an object 20 metres away. If you ever experience blurred distance vision after doing a few minutes of near work, it usually indicates eye strain.

2. Position, position, position: Ergonomics are important, so choose a comfortable and supportive chair and position it so that your feet are flat on the floor. Adjust your computer screen and all other equipment at your work station to reduce possible eye strain. Your computer screen should be about an arm’s length away when sitting back in your chair. Position your computer so that your eyes are level with the top of the monitor and you look slightly down at the screen. Sit slightly further back if you have a large screen.

3. Tweak your computer settings: By changing your font size and brightness, it will make it easier to read text on your screen and minimise eye fatigue due to squinting. Text should be about two to three times the size of the smallest text you can read. The computer screen’s brightness should be the same as the area directly behind it and you may need to adjust settings throughout the day if your workspace is lit by natural light.

4. Blink more or use eye drops: When you work at a computer or on a tablet, you are less likely to blink. Blinking keeps your eyes moist and reduces dryness and irritation. If your eyes become dry and blinking more doesn’t offer relief, especially when wearing contact lenses, use eye drops recommended by your optometrist.