The 21st century has been strange for gamers so far. Here we were, minding our own business when the Internet started touting a new threat emerging from our favorite pass time – and it seemed to come out of nowhere. It was sort of a nightmare scenario as we began to learn that the very hobby that keeps us sane is also ruining our eyesight. To counter the alleged adverse effects of a mysterious and potentially harmful blue light, special glasses came onto the market. Brands like Gamer Advantage erupted onto the scene, bringing with them a product aimed at curing our latest video game woe.
But did we ever stop to ask if the threat was ever really there? Everything happened so quick – from the moment reports started touting the dangers of digital devices and blue light to the rapid growth in popularity of “blue light” glasses – that there didn’t seem to be enough time to actually fact-check this claim. That’s why we’re here now, huddled around our devices, soaking in those purportedly harmful rays. To weed out the truth because, according to quite a few credible sources, it may be a phenomenon blown completely out of proportion.
However, before we get into the truth behind these fears, it may help to know what blue light is. To put it briefly, blue light sports the shortest wavelength of all colors of the rainbow. This, in turn, equates to a higher amount of energy emitted. What we’re led to believe is that the photons of blue light are damaging the retina, which makes sense if you think about it. A higher energy light should cause more damage to the membrane tucked at the back of your eye. But there is something else at work here, and to understand just how dangerous blue light is, all we have to do is rewind the clock to March 2021.
The Real Culprit is Exposed
In March 2021, medical writer Celia Vimont wrote “Should You Be Worried About Blue Light?” for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which delved into the quandary posed in the title. Though not a doctor herself, Vimont called upon the expertise of Stanford graduate and vitreoretinal (or vision restoration/preservation) surgeon Rahul Khurana, MD, to delve into the realities of blue light and its apparent effects on our eyes. Vimont immediately notes that “there is no scientific evidence that blue light from digital devices causes damage to your eye.”
So, why do our eyes hurt when we look at a screen for too long? According to Dr. Khurana, who serves at one of California’s largest retina practices, it’s because we are blinking less. As a result, our eyes are getting dryer, leading to the irritation and strain that we’re attributing to blue light.
If you think back to just a few moments ago, we agreed that a higher energy light is definitely going to be more damaging to your eyes. There is no denying that our digital devices emit blue light, so how is it that they couldn’t be significantly more damaging? As head and neck surgeon Dr. Salvatore Iaquinta noted in his 2020 piece “Is Blue Light from Digital Devices Dangerous,” something like an iPhone radiates only 1/10th the amount of blue light that natural, ambient sunlight produces. And that’s only at maximum brightness, which isn’t likely a 24/7 setting for most users with modern phones.
While the blue light from your devices may not be a contributing factor to your eye fatigue, it is known to exacerbate other issues. For instance, using a device that emits blue light too close to your bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep. Assistant professor of Optometry at the Ohio State University, Phillip Yuhas, states that gaming or surfing the web on your phone immediately before trying to sleep can dull your focus and make your brain feel fogged the next day.
But Are Blue Light Filters Worth It?
As much as glasses designed to block blue light look cool, they’re really not as practical as they’re advertised. Though The Vision Council released a Digital Eye Strain Report in 2016 suggesting that blue light exposure was damaging to the human eye, there are enough educated voices in the field of optometry vehemently saying otherwise. University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry clinical associate professor Adam Gordon, O.D., claims that overexposure to blue light can make it difficult for the eye to focus in the short term, but it poses no long-term dangers.
In fact, it’s Gordon who has chided lens manufacturers, saying that they’ve “jumped on the bandwagon of harmful blue light and are creating products that they claim will protect your eyes from macular degeneration or other eye diseases.” As he reinforces, “Blue light more often causes eye discomfort and annoyance than physical harm.”
Even the American Academy of Opthalmology has spoken out against blue light lenses. According to the academy, there is a notable “lack of scientific evidence that blue light is damaging to the eyes.”
What Does that Mean for Gamers?
Honestly, it sounds like nothing, except you don’t have to worry about your eyes falling out of your head just because you’ve been exposing yourself to blue light for umpteen hours a day. Just take care of your eyes. Take breaks, use lubricating drops if they feel dry, don’t play right up until it’s time to go to bed, and remember to blink.
If you’re more comfortable using a pair of blue light lenses, there aren’t any reported adverse side effects. Just know that you may be paying a decent sum for a placebo to a non-issue.