The Hidden Risk of Eye Strain From ‘Blue Light’

By Pat Anson, Editor

Do you get frequent headaches? Suffer from neck and shoulder pain? Have trouble getting to sleep?

If you spend a lot of time online, the culprit could be high energy visible (HEV) light – also known as blue light – emitted by your smartphone, laptop, desktop computer and other digital devices.

Blue light has a very short wavelength that penetrates deep into the eye. In its natural form, blue light is what makes the sky look blue and can have beneficial effects, such as boosting alertness and elevating mood. But the additional burden of artificial blue light is exposing us to more blue light waves than our eyes can handle.

According to a nationwide survey of nearly 10,000 adults by The Vision Council, nearly 9 out of 10 Americans use digital devices more than two hours per day, and over half regularly use two digital devices simultaneously.

Many don’t realize that prolonged exposure to blue light raises the risk of digital eye strain, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts; and can also suppress of the body's natural release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.

"Patients underestimate how their technology use may be contributing to eye strain and do not consider ways to reduce this stress," says Dr. Justin Bazan, OD, medical adviser to The Vision Council.   

About a third of those surveyed reported having symptoms of digital eye strain, including neck and shoulder pain (30%), headache (23%), blurred vision (22%) and dry eyes (22%). 

More than 80% also report that they use digital devices in the hour before going to bed.  Eye exposure before bedtime has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns.

Prolonged blue light exposure is common in children. Three out of four Americans say their children get more than two hours of screen time a day. Half report these children suffer from headaches, neck and shoulder pain, irritated eyes, reduced attention span, poor behavior, or irritability.

The Vision Council says there are a number of easy steps to prevent digital eye strain:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule, by taking a 20-second break from the screen every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away
  • Reduce overhead lighting to eliminate screen glare
  • Position yourself at arm's distance away from computer screens
  • Increase text size on devices to better define content on the screen

Specialized eyewear is also available with lenses that can block blue light, decrease brightness, minimize glare, and reduce the blurriness and pixilation of screens. The lenses are constructed for the mid-distance range at which users typically view a digital screen, and can be purchased with or without a prescription. 

"The optical industry has recognized and responded to the increase in digital habits and has developed lens and coating technology to protect the eyes from blue light, glare and other environmental stressors, ultimately to improve the way people see," says Ashley Mills, CEO of The Vision Council.

More information about blue light can be found at