Blue light filtering
First, marketers begin with the statement that blue light is dangerous to our eyes, skin, and sleep patterns. This is factually correct, but somewhat intellectually dishonest.
Let’s turn to an expert for a better explanation. As Dr. Norman Shedlo, Optometrist and owner of the Eyecare Center of Maryland, puts it:
“It’s true that blue and ultraviolet light are dangerous to eyes, but only at very high intensities. The amount of blue light produced by a computer monitor or phone screen is so dim that it has no effect on the health of the eyes. The blue and UV light from the sun is very dangerous and is a documented source of skin cancer, cataracts and retina disease to millions. This is why doctors recommend sunglasses and sunscreen to people spending significant time outdoors.”– Dr. Norman Shedlo
If you have ever noticed the flicker of a monitor or other display, you will agree that the flicker can be aggravating and unpleasant to look at. But the important question here is whether or not a “flicker-free” monitor does anything to protect your eyes.
Again, we turn to the experts. Dr. Shedlo tells us that “flicker rates between 70-90 Hz will present a screen that does not appear to ‘flicker’. The flickering itself is not dangerous to your eyes, it’s just annoying. Flicker rates above this are outside the range of human perception and make absolutely no difference. These rates have no effect on eye strain.”
We discussed the topic with Dr. Yuna Rapoport, an Ophthalmologist and owner of Manhattan Eye.
Most of the eye strain that occurs happens because of dry eye and decreased blink. So, while special flicker free monitors and monitor lamps seem fancy and may provide a better user experience, from a medical point of view they do not ‘save the eyes.’– Dr. Yuna Rapoport
We asked our experts a few simple questions: Would you recommend a special eye care monitor for a friend or family member? And would you pay extra for an eye saving monitor?
Dr. Rapoport stated that she does not “think that they are worth the extra price,” and she “would not get one for myself or for a loved one.”
Dr. Shedlo replied that he “would not pay extra for any eye health benefits claimed by these technologies.”
If we are looking solely at the science and the expert advice, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that eye care monitors actually improve eye health.
The concept behind monitor lamps, monitor light bars, and monitor bias lighting is relatively simple. These products minimize the lighting contrast between your monitor and the surrounding area. A bright display in a dark room causes strain on the eyes, so it is better to have some ambient lighting near your computer.
So, these products probably help minimize eye strain when compared to using no monitor lighting at all. But that doesn’t mean that it makes sense to spend $100+ for a specialty monitor light bar that claims it will save your eyes. Ultimately, these monitor lamps and light bars are simply, as Dr. Shedlo puts it, “smaller lamps placed on the monitor to provide lighting to certain places on the desk. Their function can be substituted for by any suitable desk lamp pointed in the right direction.”
However, much of this “eye saving” technology is actually just marketing hype. As Dr. Shedlo puts it, these computer companies use language that is “scientific and technical [to give] the impression of legitimate benefits based on scientific data.” But “the claims about the relationship of new monitors to eye health have no basis in reality.”