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Blue-blocking Filters and Digital Eyestrain

Palavets, Tatsiana, BA1; Rosenfield, Mark, MCOptom, PhD, FAAO1*

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001318

SIGNIFICANCE Many manufacturers are currently marketing blue-blocking (BB) filters, which they claim will reduce the symptoms of digital eyestrain (DES). However, there is limited evidence to support the proposal that DES results from the blue light emitted by these devices.

PURPOSE The visual and ocular symptoms commonly experienced when viewing digital screens are collectively termed DES. The emission spectrum of modern digital displays frequently includes a high percentage of blue light. Being higher in energy, these short wavelengths may contribute to DES. This study examined the effect of a BB filter on symptoms of DES during a sustained near-vision task.

METHODS Twenty-three young, visually normal subjects were required to perform a 30-minute reading task from a tablet computer. The digital screen was overlaid with either a BB or neutral-density (ND) filter producing equal screen luminance. During each session, the accommodative response, pupil diameter, and vertical palpebral aperture dimension were measured at 0, 9, 19, and 29 minutes after the start of the reading task. Immediately following each session, subjects completed a questionnaire to quantify symptoms of DES.

RESULTS The BB filter blocked 99% of the wavelengths between 400 and 500 nm. The mean total symptom scores (±1 SEM) for the BB and ND filter conditions were 42.83 (3.58) and 42.61 (3.17), respectively (P = .62). No significant differences in accommodation or vertical palpebral aperture dimension were observed between the two filter conditions, although the magnitude of the mean accommodative response did increase significantly during the first 9 minutes of the task (P = .02).

CONCLUSIONS A filter that eliminated 99% of the emitted blue light was no more effective at reducing symptoms of DES than an equiluminant ND filter. There is little evidence at this time to support the use of BB filters to minimize near work–induced asthenopia.

1SUNY College of Optometry, New York, New York *

Supplemental Digital Content: Appendix 1, the questionnaire administered to subjects immediately following the reading task, is available at The questionnaire is taken from Hayes et al.24

Submitted: December 1, 2017

Accepted: September 4, 2018

Funding/Support: None of the authors have reported funding/support.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: None of the authors have reported a financial conflict of interest.

Author Contributions and Acknowledgments: Conceptualization: MR; Data Curation: TP; Formal Analysis: TP; Investigation: TP, MR; Methodology: TP, MR; Project Administration: TP, MR; Supervision: MR; Writing – Original Draft: MR.

The authors thank Dr. David Loshin and Ms. Michelle Merida Morgado, Nova Southeastern University, College of Optometry, for their assistance in generating Figs. 2A and B of this article.

Supplemental Digital Content: Direct URL links are provided within the text.

© 2019 American Academy of Optometry