If you stare at a computer screen all day long, you’re very likely to suffer from dry eyes. That’s because you blink 2-3 times less than normal while looking at a monitor.
And if your eyes also feel strained and tired at the end of each day, that’s certainly not normal. You might also have blurry vision or even headaches, or not be sleeping well.
The first step, quite obviously, is to visit an optician and have your eyes tested and checked. You might well need prescription glasses, but your optician may simply recommend eye drops (synthetic tears) and – if possible – reduced screen time.
If you find out you don’t need prescription glasses, it’s also well worth evaluating your whole workstation to make sure it is ergonomically sound. The top of your monitor should be roughly level with your eyes, your chair and desk should be the correct height for a comfortable posture (and to avoid RSI while using a keyboard or mouse).
Windows 10 makes it easy to adjust the size of fonts and icons, so if you’re straining to read text on a high-resolution screen, you can make everything bigger, or bring your monitor closer.
There is another avenue you can explore: computer glasses. Head to Amazon, for example, and search for them and you’ll find a wealth of options costing very little to those costing a lot.
What do computer glasses do?
Computer glasses can do two main jobs. First, they filter out blue light, which is said to cause eye strain (and potentially disrupt sleep). They can also increase contrast and reduce glare by using an anti-reflective coating.
A lot of computer glasses are marketed as gaming glasses, and you’ll often see esports players wearing yellow-tinted specs. Just bear in mind that the yellow night driving glasses you may have seen aren’t simply the same thing re-branded for computer use. Most have polarised lenses which will block out the light from LCD monitors due to the way that they work.
Optometrists and scientists mostly remain unconvinced that blue light damages your eyesight. And yet, computer glasses should still be more effective at filtering out blue light than the night modes on your laptop, phone or tablet.
Of course, if you’re not experiencing any of the issues mentioned so far, there is little point in buying computer glasses. But if you are, they can help. As the results are very subjective – and you can see this in action simply by reading the reviews below each pair on Amazon – it’s up to you whether you splash out upwards of £50/$50 on a pair of Gunnar Intercepts or start out with the more affordable pair from Duco for under £20 / $20.
Most of the brands you’ll find will be unknown, but it’s Gunnar that gaming brand Razer chose to work with for its own range of gaming glasses. These are more expensive than Gunnar’s main range, costing £99.99 / $99.99.
My colleague, Lewis Painter, uses a pair regularly. "If I'm planning a long gaming session, I wear the Razer Gunnar glasses to avoid the headaches I get from eye strain and blue light - especially late at night. You adjust to the orange tinge within a few minutes and it becomes unnoticeable, so there's no real downside to wearing them - unless you need prescription glasses, of course."
Bear in mind that, as with all lenses, you tend to get what you pay for. Cheap lenses may not be optically perfect, and might well cause eye strain if they aren’t sharp and clear. In this case, the Gunnar pair has an anti-reflective coating and a slight power boost (a bit like reading glasses) of around +0.25 which helps make text easier to read. In fact, Netherlands-based Gunnar also offers prescription lenses for its large range of frames, but this does ramp up the price considerably: expect to pay £200-£500 for a pair.
It’s possible to buy a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses without the yellow tint, should you not want to look like an extra from a sci-fi movie or, more practically, want to see colours accurately.
Irish company Ambr Eyewear has a range of Blue Light glasses (from around £50) that look exactly like a regular pair of specs and offer clear vision without affection your perception of colours. And like Gunnar, Ambr will make up prescription lenses if you need them. Up to +/-4.00 costs £123 (around $160), and there’s an extra charge if you need a higher prescription or varifocals.
Ambr, as the name implies, also offers an orange-tinted Ultra range for ‘blue-phobics’ which blocks out even more blue light. And the company is clear about how much: you can see a graph of the transmittance across the range of blue wavelengths on its website.
As we've said, if you're not suffering from eye strain, blurry vision or general fatigue after using screens for long periods, then no, you probably don't need computer glasses.
If you do, then anecdotally, glasses which filter out blue light can definitely help alleviate symptoms as well as offering side benefits such as UV protection.
Unfortunately some manufacturers of computer glasses make questionable claims, such as reducing dry-eye symptoms and that they block 100% of blue light. Typically those claims are untrue, but you don’t have to spend much to try out a pair of computer glasses to find out if they work for you. Plus, several of the companies we've mentioned here offer money-back guarantees if you're not totally happy, so you can try out a more expensive paid risk-free.
You can reduce the blue light being emitted from your screen. Here's how to enable 'night mode' on Windows 10, macOS, Android and iOS.