The effect of blue-light blocking spectacle lenses on visual performance, macular health and the sleep-wake cycle: a systematic review of the literature

Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2017 Nov;37(6):644-654. doi: 10.1111/opo.12406.


Purpose: Blue-blocking (BB) spectacle lenses, which attenuate short-wavelength light, are being marketed to alleviate eyestrain and discomfort when using digital devices, improve sleep quality and potentially confer protection from retinal phototoxicity. The aim of this review was to investigate the relative benefits and potential harms of these lenses.

Methods: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), recruiting adults from the general population, which investigated the effect of BB spectacle lenses on visual performance, symptoms of eyestrain or eye fatigue, changes to macular integrity and subjective sleep quality. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library and clinical trial registers, until 30 April 2017. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane tool.

Results: Three studies (with 136 participants) met our inclusion criteria; these had limitations in study design and/or implementation. One study compared the effect of BB lenses with clear lenses on contrast sensitivity (CS) and colour vision (CV) using a pseudo-RCT crossover design; there was no observed difference between lens types (log CS; Mean Difference (MD) = -0.01 [-0.03, 0.01], CV total error score on 100-hue; MD = 1.30 [-7.84, 10.44]). Another study measured critical fusion frequency (CFF), as a proxy for eye fatigue, on wearers of low and high BB lenses, pre- and post- a two-hour computer task. There was no observed difference between low BB and standard lens groups, but there was a less negative change in CFF between the high and low BB groups (MD = 1.81 [0.57, 3.05]). Both studies compared eyestrain symptoms with Likert scales. There was no evidence of inter-group differences for either low BB (MD = 0.00 [-0.22, 0.22]) or high BB lenses (MD = -0.05 [-0.31, 0.21]), nor evidence of a difference in the proportion of participants showing an improvement in symptoms of eyestrain or eye fatigue. One study reported a small improvement in sleep quality in people with self-reported insomnia after wearing high compared to low-BB lenses (MD = 0.80 [0.17, 1.43]) using a 10-point Likert scale. A study involving normal participants found no observed difference in sleep quality. We found no studies investigating effects on macular structure or function.

Conclusions: We find a lack of high quality evidence to support using BB spectacle lenses for the general population to improve visual performance or sleep quality, alleviate eye fatigue or conserve macular health.

Keywords: blue light blocking; macular changes; sleep-wake cycle; spectacles; systematic review; visual performance.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / radiation effects*
  • Contrast Sensitivity / radiation effects
  • Eye Pain / prevention & control
  • Eyeglasses*
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Macula Lutea / radiation effects
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sleep / radiation effects
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / prevention & control
  • Visual Acuity / radiation effects