You are probably familiar with blue light blocking glasses as a means to protect against artificial lighting, but did you know that certain brands may be better for migraine and headache disorders, concussions and other light-sensitive conditions? We break down the filtering properties of several top blue light glasses to show you where you can find the most blue light protection for screen use, fluorescents, LEDs, sunlight and more.
What is the most harmful blue light for light sensitivity?
Blue light encompasses a wide range of visible wavelengths generally between 400-500nm. Since it is lower on the visible spectrum, blue light features shorter wavelengths of higher energy light—characteristics which have given rise to discussion about their health effects. In fact, blue light exposure can have a profound impact on our eyes, our emotional health, our sleeping patterns and our neurological functioning. (If you want to read more about the general effects of blue light, read our blog here)
However, not all blue light wavelengths are equal, especially if you have been diagnosed with migraine, suffered a traumatic brain injury, or have another cause of light sensitivity. Research has shown that blue light in and around 480nm is the most likely to trigger pain and other symptoms of light-sensitive conditions.1,2 Although we are still learning about the exact mechanisms that cause this hyperreactivity, patients with these disorders are known to have underlying dysfunction that affects how they process light exposure and the amount of light they can tolerate. This process is further hastened by specific cells in the eye that have peak sensitivity to wavelengths of 480nm blue light and connect to the pain centers in our brain, among other key functions. Thus, when confronted with this type of lighting, their brain is unable to handle it.
Fluorescent lighting also poses a unique problem within the blue spectrum, up to and including 480nm. Conventional fluorescent bulbs pulse as part of their essential functioning, which our brains detect as “flickering” even though our eyes see a continuous stream of light. Not only can this invisible flicker be unpleasant for healthy people, but there is evidence that those with a headache disorder are especially vulnerable to its effects.3 And evidence shows that the pulsing of various types of fluorescents is particularly intense in the blue spectrum, including at 480nm.4
While we know wavelengths at 480nm cause the most problems for people with light sensitivity, other wavelengths of blue light (particularly 430-470nm and 490-500nm) can also activate sensitive brains in different ways. Unfortunately, the outcomes often look the same with the development of migraine attacks, headaches, photophobia pain and other symptoms brought on by light.
How much and what type of blue light do common sources emit?
As you might know, blue light is literally everywhere. Although most commonly associated with our computer and device screens, fluorescent lighting, LEDs and natural daylight are equally rich in blue light. The concentrations and specific wavelengths vary greatly, but many experts suggest that the peak for many light sources can run between 430nm and up to 500nm. Here are additional details about blue light emission from specific everyday light sources:
- Most mobile and device screens peak starting around 450nm, with additional blue light emitted beyond those wavelengths5
- The peak for many types of fluorescent lighting concentrates around 480nm6
- LEDs peak around 460nm and emit more than 3 times the amount of blue light between 440-470nm when compared with non-LEDs.7,8
- Direct and indirect sunlight expose us to significantly more concentrations of blue light than artificial sources, especially at 480nm5
Even though there is noticeable variability in the transmission of blue light from these different sources, one thing remains true: we are continually exposed to blue light at 480nm, which poses a risk to those with light-sensitive disorders.
Which blue light glasses block more harmful blue light?
Most people with recurring light sensitivity symptoms understand that blocking blue light through the use of tinted glasses can have a positive effect on their health, but they may not have realized that the wavelengths being targeted and the amount being filtered are critical for their effectiveness. We compare some of the most popular blue light glasses available and show just how much blue light they are filtering at critical wavelengths.
Percentage of blue light removed
at critical wavelengths (nm)9
|Other FL-41 (Purple)*||35%||35%||37%||40%||43%||45%||46%||46%|
|Other FL-41 (Pink)*||40%||38%||41%||44%||48%||49%||51%||53%|
View a larger version of this table here
As you can see, TheraSpecs filter significantly more blue light at the vital 480nm wavelength than typical blue light glasses brands—in some cases as much as 25 times more.9
However, it is not just enough to filter more light at a single wavelength. As we discussed previously, a wide range of blue light commonly emitted from artificial and natural sources can be detrimental to even healthy eyes—let alone to a person with an underlying cause of photophobia. Clearly, TheraSpecs also outperform other blue light eyewear at every single wavelength tested in the range between 430-500nm. This means they provide greater protection across a wide spectrum of light that is known to be harmful for people with light-sensitive conditions.9
Independent testing from other light-filtering experts supports TheraSpecs indoor blue light blocking glasses as the most protective against the “blue light hazard” when compared with these other glasses.10,11
In addition, they still offer 100% protection against non-visible ultraviolet or UV light, which can be a concern for the eyes as well. And yet, indoor TheraSpecs only remove about half of all light, which means they do not risk worsening a person’s sensitivity to light over time in the same way wearing dark sunglasses indoors would. In combination with its enhanced light blocking capabilities, they offer a more socially-accepted appearance when compared with sunglasses because:
- Others can see your eyes while wearing TheraSpecs, which helps reduce social isolation
- You will be able to see all colors with TheraSpecs. A slight shift in color perception will occur, but most brains adjust quickly and grow to love the color with them on.
Finally, the therapeutic tint of TheraSpecs can also be applied to lenses that are designed for outdoor use. Our outdoor glasses remove even more blue light at 480nm than our indoor glasses (more than 92% overall), while still retaining key features of other high-quality, dark sunglasses: they are significantly darker than indoor lenses, are polarized to reduce exterior glare and also block 100% of UVA/UVB light. Given natural sunlight has both higher brightness levels when compared with indoor lighting and incredible amounts of blue wavelengths, outdoor TheraSpecs are expertly designed to provide the protection that people with light sensitivity need to stay safe outside.
Why is blocking more blue light important?
Research continues to underscore the importance of filtering more blue light in the fight against damaging our eyes and brains from harmful light exposure. This is especially true for people who have an underlying cause of photophobia because they are shown to be the most susceptible to adverse outcomes.
In fact, people with migraine and post-concussion headache (among others) have lower tolerance for bright lighting when compared with healthy individuals.12,13 Blue light exposure in particular packs an unpleasant punch because of the dysfunction in certain neurological pathways that connect the eye and brain. And since certain cells in our eyes are most reactive to blue light at 480nm, exposure to these and surrounding wavelengths can set off a chain reaction of activity in the brain—resulting in the development of symptoms.
TheraSpecs indoor lenses block up to 25 times more harmful blue light when compared with other brands of blue light glasses.
With indoor TheraSpecs removing nearly 80% of these wavelengths, they provide a buffer against the hyperreactivity that occurs in sensitive brains when confronted with screen light, fluorescents, LEDs and other artificial sources. When compared with other tinted eyewear, wearing TheraSpecs has directly led to:
- A 74% reduction in migraine frequency14
- Sustained prevention of migraine attacks over time14
- Greater improvement in photophobia, fluorescent light sensitivity and other symptoms of ocular disorders15
Patients with vestibular conditions have further supported that our glasses help reduce their symptoms too, from dizziness and vertigo to light-triggered headaches. Plus, TheraSpecs wearers have told us they prefer our glasses over other common remedies for light sensitivity (including other therapeutic eyewear).
In addition, both migraine, traumatic brain injury and other conditions are associated with abnormal thresholds of “critical flicker fusion frequency” (CFF), which basically means their brains are more likely to pick up on the invisible flickering of LEDs and fluorescents.16,17 The tint used in TheraSpecs therapeutic blue light glasses directly reduces the effects of this light pulsing, and further mediates its impact because of the large amount of blue wavelengths they eliminate.18
Multiple studies have shown lenses that block more blue light overall (not wavelength dependent) are simply better for reducing the physiological effects of this perceived flicker. It’s not enough to cut even 25-35% of blue light, since patients found the most benefit with lenses that blocked at least half of the light in the blue wavelengths.19,20 TheraSpecs filter the most of this light at nearly 80 percent.
As a result, users can feel an improvement in visual fatigue, eye strain and eye pain that is caused by fluorescent and LED flicker.19,20 Although light sensitivity was not specifically examined, all of these symptoms can be associated with and/or precursors to the onset of photophobia.
If you want to try TheraSpecs to protect you from blue light and relieve your light sensitivity, simply click below to see our catalog of available styles.
More articles about light sensitivity remedies:
More articles about blue light:
1Noseda R, Kainz V, Jakubowski M, Gooley JJ, Saper CB, Digre K, Burstein R. “A neural mechanism for exacerbation of headache by light.” Nature Neuroscience 2010 Feb;13(2):239-45
2Tatsumoto M, Eda T, Ishikawa T, et al. "Light of Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cell (ipRGC) Causing Migraine Headache Exacerbation." IHC symposium OR3. June 2013.
3Wilkins A, Nimmo-Smith I, Slater A, Bedocs L. Fluorescent lighting, headaches and eyestrain. Lighting Research & Technology. 1989;21(1):11-18. doi:10.1177/096032718902100102.
4Wilkins A, Clark C. Modulation of light from fluorescent lamps. Lighting Research & Technology. 1990;22(2):103-109. doi:10.1177/096032719002200205.
5f.luxometer Spectral Data by Device. https://fluxometer.com/rainbow/. Accessed September 15, 2020.
6Volchko J. Visible Light Spectrum: From a Lighting Manufacturer's Perspective. Lumitex. https://www.lumitex.com/blog/visible-light-spectrum. Published June 28, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2020.
7Nash TR, Chow ES, Law AD, et al. Daily blue-light exposure shortens lifespan and causes brain neurodegeneration in Drosophila. npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease. 2019;5(1). doi:10.1038/s41514-019-0038-6.
8Cajochen C, Frey S, Anders D, et al. Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011;110(5):1432-1438. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00165.2011
9Visible light transmission by wavelength measured by TheraSpecs Company using f.luxometer software https://fluxometer.com/page/measure/ *Note: “Other FL-41 (Purple)” represented by Axon Optics indoor lens and “Other FL-41 (Pink)” represented by Terramed
10f.luxometer Spectral Data by Filter. https://fluxometer.com/rainbow/. Accessed September 15, 2020.
11Bole U, Pickett TF. EASY Blue Light TEST [MAXIMIZE Your Eye Protection 2019]. GLARminY. https://glarminy.com/blue-light-test/. Published September 6, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2020.
12Vanagaite J, Pareja JA, Støren O, White LR, Sand T, Stovner LJ. Light-induced discomfort and pain in migraine. Cephalalgia. 17(7), 733-741
13Jarvis N, Starling AJ, Schwedt TJ. Photophobia symptoms and visual pain thresholds in posttraumatic headache after mild traumatic brain injury. Neurology. 2018;91(23 Supplement 1).doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000550668.55103.10.
14Good PA, Taylor RH, Mortimer MJ. “The use of tinted glasses in childhood migraine.” Headache. 1991 Sep;31(8):533-6.
15Blackburn MK, Lamb RD, Digre KB, et al. FL-41 tint improves blink frequency, light sensitivity, and functional limitations in patients with benign essential blepharospasm. Ophthalmology. 2009;116(5):997-1001. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2008.12.031
16Kowacs PA, Piovesan EJ, Werneck LC, Fameli H, Zani AC, da Silva HP. Critical flicker frequency in migraine. A controlled study in patients without prophylactic therapy. Cephalalgia. 2005;25(5):339-343. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2982.2004.00861.x
17Eisen-Enosh A, Farah N, Burgansky-Eliash Z, Polat U, Mandel Y. Evaluation of Critical Flicker-Fusion Frequency Measurement Methods for the Investigation of Visual Temporal Resolution. Scientific Reports. 2017;7(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-15034-z.
18Wilkins AJ, Wilkinson P. A tint to reduce eye-strain from fluorescent lighting? Preliminary observations. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 1991;11(2):172-175. doi:10.1111/j.1475-1313.1991.tb00217.x
19Ide T, Toda I, Miki E, Tsubota K. Effect of Blue Light–Reducing Eye Glasses on Critical Flicker Frequency. Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology. 2015;4(2):80-85. doi:10.1097/apo.0000000000000069.
20Lin JB, Gerratt BW, Bassi CJ, Apte RS. Short-Wavelength Light-Blocking Eyeglasses Attenuate Symptoms of Eye Fatigue. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science. 2017;58(1):442. doi:10.1167/iovs.16-20663.
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