Getting glasses used to be pretty straightforward: if you couldn’t see the blackboard in school or road signs when driving (or other equally far-away things), you went to the eye doctor, took a test and then got glasses if you needed them. But now that so much of our time is spent staring at screens—whether it’s our phones or computers—we’re told we need other types of glasses to help our eyes, even if we don’t require prescription specs. So what’s the deal with computer glasses?
Why you might need computer glasses
Vision problems are unfortunately one of the hazards of too much screen time. In fact, the Vision Council found that 59 percent of adults in the U.S. reported having some kind of digital eye strain (strained, dry, or red eyes; blurred vision; headaches; back pain; neck pain; or general fatigue) as a result of using digital devices for hours at a time.
We’ve previously noted several ways to prevent or reduce eyestrain, including using the 20-20-20 rule to regularly give your eyes a break and ergonomically optimizing your workstation. In addition to those essential tweaks, computer eyewear could also alleviate or prevent digital eyestrain, depending on your situation. Here’s what you need to know.
How computer glasses work
Computer glasses are special-purpose eyeglasses meant to optimize your eyesight when you’re looking at digital screens. They’re designed to: reduce glare (a major cause of eyestrain), increase contrast and maximize what you see through the lenses—making it easier to look at a screen for longer periods of time. Here are the two main features you’ll see in glasses like these:
Anti-reflective (AR) coating: Anti-reflective coatings reduce glare bouncing off screens and from light sources. Specially-designed computer and gaming glasses from Gunnar and Ambr Eyewear offer these coatings and prescription glasses can get anti-reflective coatings as well. However, not all anti-reflective coatings are the same. Older glasses might have a cheap coating that was constantly catching smudges and dirt—actually causing eyestrain and vision problems as a result. I was probably cleaning those things every half hour. The glasses I recently got (funded by the Vision Council) with newer/more advanced coating don’t have that problem.
Validating my experience, Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, an optometrist and computer vision consultant (who was also the technical adviser for Gunnar Optiks), points out that when it comes to coatings, the new generation of coatings are much better than earlier versions. Older ones peeled and scratched easily, resulting in unsightly cracks, so if you tried them a few years ago and had a bad experience, don’t write off the newer versions. They’ve gotten much better, between being easier to clean and reducing reflections, glare, and halos.
Color tints: Some computer glasses also have an unmistakable (usually yellow) tint designed to increase the contrast on the screen and filter out the uncomfortable/harsh light spectrums so your eye muscles relax. The tinted glasses are signatures of Gunnar glasses, but tints can be applied to other glasses as well.
Costs: Gunnar glasses retail for $55 and up for the non-prescription versions, but you can often find sales on them. Prescription versions of the Gunnars, however, can cost several hundred dollars. Anti-reflective coating brands for prescription (and non-prescription) glasses include Crizal, Zeiss and Teflon. The coating alone will set you back quite a bit. The coating typically costs between $70-140, in addition to the cost of the lenses and frame, depending on whether your insurance has a vision plan. For example, with the standard VSP plan, TechShield Anti-Reflective Coating will cost $69, as opposed to $115 without coverage.
What about blue light?
But what about all this blue light we’ve been hearing about lately? For the past few years we’ve been told that the blue light coming from our phones, tablets and computers is hurting our eyes, and there are plenty of companies out there selling blue-light-specific glasses (separate from the coating we’ve been talking about in this article so far).
As it turns out, no—blue light is not blinding you, and you do not need special blue-light-filtering glasses. At this point, there is no empirical evidence that blue light causes irreversible damage to our eyesight, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend any special eyewear for that purpose. (Now back to your regularly scheduled article on the other types of computer glasses.)
Are computer glasses effective?
Whether or not computer glasses will be worth it and work for you is subjective, because, as Dr. Anshel notes, factors include your visual abilities and computer usage, work environmental conditions, and your viewing habits. Blue light aside, here’s what experts and users have said about the other types of computer glasses.
First: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
If you aren’t experiencing any eye problems, you can just stop here. Specially coated and/or computer eyeglasses won’t do anything for you (other than geekify your look). In fact, they could be a hindrance. Dr. Robert Noecker, an ophthalmologist and Director of Glaucoma for Ophthalmic Consultants of Connecticut, notes that……..Read More>>