You have probably heard that spending long hours using the computer can cause eye strain but do you know why? Learning about the connection between computer monitors and digital eye strain will also clue you in on how to reduce the uncomfortable side effects.

Why Does Using a Computer Hurt Your Eyes?

Initially, you might think it has to do with the light being too bright for your eyes. But this is only part of the answer. It is indeed the light from your monitor that causes eye strain but it is a certain type.

Your computer screen emits blue light and that specifically is what your eyes are reacting to. Blue light is also called high energy visible light, or HEV light. For reference, it is only one stage lower in energy than ultraviolet (UV) light. Blue light is the highest energy light that we can also see, therefore the name HEV.

Digital eye strain occurs because your eye isn’t very good at blocking light in the blue part of the spectrum. While only a tiny bit (less than one percent) of UV light actually reaches the sensitive retina, nearly all blue light does. (Note that sunglasses are necessary to block 100 percent of UV rays because even the small amount that gets through is very damaging.) Blue light tires your eyes out because it is both high energy and is easily scattered. It doesn’t focus as well the rest of the light spectrum which causes the eye strain you feel after staring at your computer screen.

How Do You Avoid Blue Light?

Well, you can’t, not entirely. While blue light is associated with digital devices like computers and smartphones, the sun itself is a natural source of this light. The white light from the sun is made from the combination of all the colors which compose the light spectrum, blue included. The sun is the primary source of exposure to HEV light.

Additionally, you actually don’t want to avoid all of it. Keep in mind that sunlight contains blue light and exposure to the sun, so your body can manufacture vitamin D, is essential to good physical and mental health. The presence of blue light also helps your body maintain its natural sleep/wake cycle, called circadian rhythm.

Of course, there are many man-made sources which emit blue light as well. But, unlike with sunlight, we can limit our exposure to these. Smartphones, tablets, computer monitors and television screens are indoor sources of blue light. Lamps with fluorescent or LED bulbs also shine using blue light. While these items all give off way less HEV light than the sun, we also spend quite a bit of time exposed to them, which increases their negative effects.

Solutions to Blue Light Exposure

Just as people have created the issue of digital eye strain from blue light with the prevalence of computers, they have also invented solutions so we can continue using our electronics in comfort. Of course, taking frequent breaks to rest your eyes is always helpful, regardless if you are using a phone or computer.

For your eyes, both anti-reflective lens coatings and special computer glasses are available. If you already wear prescription glasses, opting for an anti-reflective coating means you don’t have to do anything extra to protect yourself, other than make sure your glasses are actually on while using your device. If you prefer contact lenses or don’t need any vision correction, yellow tinted computer glasses are worth considering.

You could also block the blue light on the device itself. There are screen protectors available which filter it out while they keep scratches off your device. Some devices also have a setting built in to manage blue light.

So to keep your eyes from seeing red, limit the amount of blue that goes into them.

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