Do blue light glasses really work? Eye experts weigh in

While their patients claim glasses help, doctors say there’s no medical data to back it up

ORLANDO, Fla. – You’ve probably noticed more and more people wearing glasses while staring at their computer screens, and it’s likely not because they are near-sighted or far-sighted.

Many News 6 team members are turning to blue light glasses to help counter things like eye strain, headaches and insomnia.

But do the trendy frames really help alleviate those symptoms?

"We don't know," said Dr. John Lehr, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at the Magruder Eye Institute in Orlando.

Dr. Lehr said there have been a lot of studies to see how excessive exposure to blue light can affect certain parts of the eye, but he confirms there is no real proof that it does.

“Being a retina specialist, one of the big concerns was, does it advance or cause macular degeneration? We don’t know for sure,” Lehr said. “The jury is still out.”

[RELATED: The dark side of blue light, and why you should care]

News 6 investigator Adrianna Iwasinski asks Dr. John Lehr, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at the Magruder Eye Institute in Orlando, about blue light glasses.
News 6 investigator Adrianna Iwasinski asks Dr. John Lehr, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at the Magruder Eye Institute in Orlando, about blue light glasses.

Despite that, he said their optometrists at the Magruder Eye Institute do recommend blue light blocking glasses and lenses to many of their patients.

“Our practice and our optometrists are very much in favor of it. They actually feel better. Is it a placebo effect? I don’t know. Is it that they’re blinking their eyes more? I don’t know. It certainly does seem to help reduce the dry eye,” Lehr said.

Hunter Loper can attest to that.

He just started using prescription glasses three months ago and opted to get the blue light blocking tint for his prescription glasses. Loper said the glasses have been a game changer for him.

"It has helped with my eye strain a lot," Loper said. "I'm not getting headaches nearly as much."

Over at the Pearle Vision in Winter Park, Optician Jered Sullivan said he also recommends blue light blocking glasses and lenses to their customers and he uses them, too. Sullivan has been an optician for the past five years and acknowledges that there is no scientific data to prove that blue light blocking glasses work any better than other measures to reduce eye strain, fatigue and insomnia.

“I know for me, personally, since I started using my blue light and non-glare, my headaches significantly decreased,” Sullivan said. “Yes, they do work. We’re in the digital age so being in front of a screen or a tablet or on your phone, it definitely has that protection against the blue light. In the long run, yes, that protection is going to be beneficial to the health of your eye.”

Sullivan said he doesn’t recommend blue light glasses to everyone, only those people who use a computer, tablet or phone more than eight hours a day.

“The eyes are a muscle. They are constantly working,” Sullivan said. “And when you are focusing so much for so long, that long amount of time causes the eye to strain. So definitely take breaks.”

Sullivan and Lehr agree on taking a break from screen time to reduce your exposure to blue light altogether.

“The theories that are coming out from the scientists (are) -- we’re not sure -- so let’s practice moderation,” Lehr said.

It turns out blue light is everywhere – from the sunshine outdoors to the fluorescent and LED lighting found inside buildings. In fact, it is what makes the sky blue. It also emits from flat screen TVs, computer screens, tablets and smart phones, but Lehr confirms it is the overexposure to blue light after the sun goes down that can affect a person’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

“There is evidence that blue light probably disrupts circadian rhythms,” Lehr said. “We’re on our phones, we’re checking our emails before we go to bed, and there were studies that show there was a decrease in melatonin production.”

Dr. Lehr said that’s why limiting screen time is so important. He said part of that moderation can include wearing blue light blocking glasses when you use your phones or computers. The other way is to use blue light blocking screen protectors, blue light blocking apps, or just limiting your screen time altogether.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying use them because there can be some medical benefit,” Lehr said.

A quick search online shows some non-prescription blue light blocking glasses as cheap as $2, to as high as $100.

If you have prescription glasses, the cost all depends on your insurance but, on average, the blue light blocking tint can cost anywhere from $40 to almost $200.

Those blue light blocking screens for your phone? An internet search showed they can range from $11.99-$49.99. A screen for your laptop or desktop computer could cost you between $8.99 and $165. The cost of a screen for your tablet runs as low as $10.99 to as high as $74.'