What You Can Do About the Purple Tint Created by Your Blue-Light Blocking Glasses

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If you’re looking for new eyeglasses, you may be considering a pair with digital-relief coating on the lenses since it blocks harmful blue-light emissions from devices, like your laptop, cell phone, and television, that can cause eyestrain. There is, however, one major drawback to going in this direction: Many customers find that the treatment creates a purple reflection or tint in their vision that some find so distracting they can’t focus on tasks. “Depending on the coating, you may also notice this ‘purple thing’ with headlights while driving at night and in photos. It's a result of the coating that is on the lenses reflecting that wavelength of light—and it's proof for the consumer that the lenses are doing what they are supposed to do—block blue light,” says Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, an optometrist at Twin Forks Optometry, PLLC in Riverhead, New York.

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Unfortunately, this is a residual effect of the blue-light blocking technology, and labs have yet to figure out how to eliminate the side effect, so every anti-reflective coating will have this effect on lenses. “Depending on the type of coating applied, the reflection can be blue, purple, or another color, and it’s dependent on the type of coating offered at the specific lab that’s creating your customized pair of blue-light blocking glasses,” says Monica Hazien, OD, an optometrist for My Eyelab. "The specific filter in these glasses can also aid in reducing sleep disruptions caused by excessive blue light and decrease risk of age-related macular degeneration.” That's science speak for loss of vision due to the degeneration of your retina, the part of the eye that allows you to see.

While you can't get rid of this reflection, one thing you can do prior to purchasing a pair of blue-light blocking glasses is ask the optical technician to check out a few samples of their digital-relief lenses to see how they alter your perception. “The level of that purple reflection really varies based on the brand and type of coating you get on your lenses,” says Dr. Zilnicki. Unfortunately, the more apparent the tint is, the more it means it is reflecting the blue light and preventing it from getting to your eyes—so, more tint means greater benefits. But if you really can't deal, you can also order just regular tinted lenses instead. Yellow, orange, and red ones reduce blue light entering your eyes as well, but they can also distort the color of the objects that you are looking at, similar to sunglasses.

“Additionally, depending on the type of lens you get in your glasses—plastic, polycarbonate, or hi-index, for example—the Abbe value, this measures the dispersion of light, varies and can cause visual aberrations,” says Dr. Zilnicki. Essentially, there are pros and cons to each type of lens material and coating, and it is a matter of determining your visual demands and what adjustment you’re willing to make. You should give yourself two weeks to get use to the changes in your vision, according to Dr. Zilnicki. During that time, she says, "you can do things like building up your wear time—start with one hour a day and build from there—or wear them during activities where your awareness of the tint is minimal at first."

Regardless of which type of glasses you wear when spending time on the computer, there are a few things that you can do to minimize digital eyestrain, headaches, and dry eyes. For starters, you can try using the 20/20/20 rule wherein every 20 minutes you look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds in order to give your eyes a break, recommends Dr. Hazien. And of course, you should reduce screen time as often as possible. And using artificial tears can help with dryness when on the computer for a long period of time. “You can also set your phone to  ‘dark mode’ to help with reducing eyestrain on the phone,” says Dr. Hazien.

As a last resort before forgoing blue-light blocking technology entirely, try a lower intensity level of digital-relief coating, Dr. Zilnicki recommends. And lastly, consider investing in a spare pair of frames that has just regular lenses in them for when you're not in front of a screen.

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