Blue light isn’t just a holiday decoration

image of this article's author, Joe Wende
Joe Wende
Senior Medical Director

Lens options covered by your vision plan are a recipe for a healthier New Year

In the nostalgic film A Christmas Story, the biggest threat to eyes was an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. If you find one among your gifts, you could still shoot your eye out, but the latest-model tablet or smart phone you've been eyeing also poses an optical risk you've probably not considered.

These tech gifts come with a Grinch-like side effect: more exposure to potentially harmful blue light.

Blue light is part of the light spectrum that provides basic illumination and also enhances feelings of well-being. However, the effects of certain spectra of blue light on vision — whether from the sun or a digital screen — can be potentially damaging.

Not-so-merry light

This is because blue light reaches deep into our eyes and can impair the retina. Research has shown that extended exposure to the blue light emanating from digital screens can lead to eye strain, promote early onset of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in people 40 and older, and cause sleep deprivation through the suppression of naturally occurring melatonin.

There’s nothing jolly about it. There is, however, a jolly-good solution: Advanced technology that’s now readily available with a prescription from your eye doctor for lenses that filter blue light. To learn which is the best option for their needs, members should talk to their eye care provider. Some vision benefits plans, including EyeMed plans, cover lenses that filter blue light.

Unsure what your vision plan should cover? Let’s unwrap the details.

Bye-bye blue holidays

Close to 30% of adults spend more than 7.5 hours a day in front of a digital device. That’s more screen time than sleep time! If you think of vision benefits as a wish list for good health, then in addition to covering an eye exam, it would also include a variety of lenses, including those that filter blue light.

All of that blue light can take a toll on the eyes. Fortunately, filtering technology offers 2 options for blue light protection: adding it to the actual lens material, or applying it to the lens as a coating.

If given the choice, research suggests that lenses composed of the material that blocks blue light may be more effective. For example, one study shows the Featherwates® Blue IQ® lenses, offered by LensCrafters, with the blue light filtering material built into the lens as it's manufactured, filters up to 5 times more blue light than a coating added after the lens is made.

But the options don’t stop there. Many independent providers in our network also offer lenses with blue light filtering built into the lens, plus several other options for lenses treated to protect against blue light damage. With so many options, there’s no reason to go without blue light protection.

Whichever approach you decide with the help of an eye doctor, the solution should filter blue light off the screen, not merely distort the colors. It’s good to know blue light filtering lenses with a slight yellow, amber, orange or red tint are best for protecting the retina from blue light, according to the American Optometric Association.  Also, polycarbonate lenses with blue light protection or other premium lenses are preferable, especially for kids, since the material is stronger and safer.

For those of you who spend more time outdoors than in front of a screen, blue light is still a concern. The sun is a major source of blue light, even in the winter. So always have a good pair of shades with 100% UV protection handy.

Wise warnings--yule be appreciated for it!

As the new year approaches--and for many, the start of a new plan year--encourage members to consult their eye doctor about blue light and other vision threats, before they snowball.

To help members learn more about blue light protection for their baby blues, browns or greens, they can read a recent story on our award winning consumer vision health site,  

Note: EyeMed has updated our vision benefits to cover a variety of lenses with blue light-filtering technology. For as little as $15*, your employees can ensure protection from harmful blue light exposure resulting from long hours in front of the computer and other digital devices, including tablets, smart phones or televisions.

*Applicable material upcharges may apply.