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Do Gaming Glasses Actually Work?

If you're a hardcore gamer, you likely spend a lot of time in front of your computer monitor or TV. That means you're staring at a screen for hours on end. While you may worry more about other physical and mental effects on your body during extended gaming sessions, one aspect of your health you should also consider is your vision.

There's actually a condition called Computer Vision Syndrome, which has become increasingly common as people incorporate more screens into their daily lives — whether they identify as gamers or not. According to the American Optometric Association, symptoms of this condition include eyestrain, headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and even neck and shoulder pain.

Some people have tried to combat these symptoms by wearing gaming glasses. These glasses, by brands such as Gunnar and J+S Vision, are designed to help reduce the negative effects of screen time that may be causing you inconvenience or pain. But what really happens when you put on a pair of gaming glasses? Do they truly help? Or can prolonged use result in additional health problems?

The war on blue light

One of the supposed advantages gamer glasses offer is reduced exposure to blue light. Blue light, part of the light spectrum that's visible to humans, has a short, high-energy wavelength that penetrates to your retinas. Natural blue light also governs your circadian rhythms, so it can disturb your sleeping and waking cycles. Because your eyes' natural filters don't sufficiently protect from blue light rays, some researchers believe long exposure may cause retinal damage and macular degeneration. LED light, particularly, emits strong blue light waves.

Though these concerns exist, medical experts such as Allison Babiuch, M.D. of Cleveland Clinic and Wexner Medical Center's Fatoumata Yanoga, MD have noted the lack of evidence to support the idea that blue exposure is harmful. In fact, the American Academy of Opthalmology doesn't recommend any particular protection to negate its effects.

Gaming glasses use filters that either block or absorb blue light (and sometimes, other types of light, such as UV). Blue light-blocking properties are designed to reduce glare, increase the sharpness of your vision, and prevent you from staying awake when you'd rather be asleep. Different brands use different methods and technologies to reduce blue light by differing amounts. Even if you only suffer temporary signs of exposure, such as fatigue, the blue light filtering properties of these glasses could help.

The potential benefits of gaming glasses

Often, the way you use a screen can cause symptoms, whether or not you game. Dry eyes, aches, vision issues and eyestrain can all be caused by lighting, poor seating posture, screen glare, uncorrected vision problems, and improper viewing distances. These aspects may not be connected to your blue light exposure

According to manufacturers, gaming glasses are designed to help with these conditions in a number of ways. Gunnar offers different tinting — often amber-colored — on the lenses that can purportedly enhance brightness, reduce glare and increase comfort, and its performed its own studies to support these claims. Other types of lenses exist that offer more balanced color-viewing and other supposed benefits, such as UV light protection.

Lenses may also include an anti-glare or anti-reflective coating to reduce ghost images and other visual distractions. Many models offer larger, wrap-around frames meant to protect against more light sources, reduce air circulation and hold in humidity, protecting from dryness and irritation. 

Are gaming glasses just a gimmick?

Though gamers may experience benefits from wearing gaming glasses, the jury is still out in the medical community. While the blue light-blocking effectiveness of computer glasses has been documented, a 2015 study in the Optometry & Visual Performance journal found that Gunnar glasses did not reduce eyestrain as the company claimed.

Additionally, experts point out that you don't need gaming glasses if you take some basic precautions, such as blinking more, making sure you have an ergonomic gaming setup, and taking a break from looking at your computer every once in a while. Also, monitor settings or apps can be used to adjust for blue light and other potential problems as well.

Gaming glasses could offer some real benefits for those who game long hours. Or they could simply be another gimmick designed to lure in consumers. Your best bet for safeguarding your eye health, especially if you're a hardcore gamer, is scheduling regular checkups with an optometrist.