By Treezer Michelle

“Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue light which are beneficial during the day because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood seem to be the most disruptive at night. The proliferation of electronics with screens as well as energy-efficient lighting is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths especially after sundown, ” says Christine Akala, an ophthalmic nurse at Bungoma County Referral Hospital.

Digital eye strain (DES) according to Christine, is a vision condition linked to the prolonged use of digital devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers. It is also known as computer vision syndrome (CVS) and visual fatigue (VF).

Christine Akala, an opthalmic nurse at Bungoma County Referral

The growing dependency on digital devices is immensely affecting us. Currently, we rely on the internet for many aspects of our lives from staying connected to friends and family through social media to finding recipes online and even research. Internet access is also easily available through a variety of digital devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers.

The need for the internet in our daily lives definitely increases our time spent on these digital devices. This inevitable increase in digital device use affects people of all age groups across many developed and developing nations.

A recent report released by The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in April 2021 found that there are currently 4.72 billion active internet users across the world, accounting for more than 60% of the global population.

The same report also shows that an internet user between the ages of 16 and 64 years spent close to 7 hours each day online. This translates to an average person spending more than 40% of their waking hours on the internet.

DES according to IAPB is a global problem that affects people of all ages, gender and races. “The rapid growth of digital device use seen over the past decade among people from all age groups may further increase their risk of developing DES,” adds Akala.

DES is a minor eye disorder which with time may lead to macular degeneration. “I am in charge of examining patients with minor eye conditions at Bungoma County Referral Hospital and I meet 2 to 3 patients in a day with signs of DES,” says Akala.

Akala examining a patient with symptoms of DES

The signs and symptoms of DES according to Akala include Headaches when exposed to blue light, blurred vision, dry eyes, eye strain, sensitivity to bright light and irritation of the eyes.

Blue Block Glasses or Blue Block Anti-glare Glasses are designed to filter blue light from digital devices and protect the eyes from blue light.

Akala  says that these glasses have special lenses with tints or coatings that help block out the harmful light emitted by digital device screens and allow visual comfort for the user.

Blue Block glasses have a lens which is designed to allow some blue light to pass through to prevent color distortion. The amount of color distortion may increase with lenses that are designed to block more than 50% or 60% of blue light from passing through to your eyes.

Blue block glasses being displayed

These glasses according to Akala can immediately reduce symptoms of digital eye strain, especially when working at night. Over time, wearing blue blockers while working on digital devices may help to normalize your circadian rhythm and risk of macular degeneration.

“I have used my Blue Block glasses for 30 years. I first had myopia and the doctor recommended myopic glasses for me. Later on in my career as a Psychosocial Counselor, I developed DES and my glasses had to be modified to be able to protect my eyes from blue light, ” says Alex Achuti, a Psychosocial Counselor in Bungoma County.

Achuti says that he uses his laptop and smartphone a lot especially when conducting peer education or group counseling sessions.

Alex Achuti, a psychosocial counselor in Bungoma wearing blue block glasses

When he developed DES, the doctor recommended the Blue Block glasses bus since he already had myopic lenses, they were just modified to fit his need.

According to Achuti, he stopped experiencing frequent headache and irritation of the eyes shortly after his glasses were modified. He adds that he has not experienced any side effects from using the blue block glasses and that anytime he is not staring at any digital screen, he removes the glasses and still sees just fine.

Joel Clinton, a fourth year Business Administration student at Maseno University also used Blue Block glasses. “Aside from being a student, I also work at a Cyber Cafe just after the university gate. With a cyber business, looking at computer screens for a long time is the norm,” says Clinton.

He has used blue block glasses for 4 years now. The glasses according to Clinton were prescribed by an optician at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital eye clinic.

Clinton, a fourth year student at Maseno University using blue block glasses

“At Eye Rafiki clinic, we sell blue block glasses at Ksh3000. This type of glasses are the highest selling type in our stock. I receive 1 to 2 customers daily looking for blue block glasses,” says Ruth Nandako, an optical technician at eye rafiki clinic.

She adds that the blue block glasses are readily available as her supplier makes sure she doesn’t run out of supplies.

According to Nandako, a customer does not need any prescription from the doctor to buy blue block glasses. Any time a customer comes for such glasses, she recommends an eye check up on the patient to find out if there is additional infection on the eyes. The check up is optional and the client decides whether or not they are interested.

“Blue Block glasses have no side effects on the user. This is because they are not fitted with any type of lense that can affect the eyes. The glasses are purely designed to protect the user from blue light,” adds Nandako.

Ruth Nandako showing the equipment she uses to examine customer’s eyes before selling the blue block glasses

She notes that the price of blue block glasses is high for a number of clients. As an optical technician, Nandako has witnessed a number of customers walk out without buying the glasses after asking for the price. Thus, she has designed a payment plan for her customers where one is allowed to pay in bits and get receipts and pick the glasses on completion of payment.

Akala further states that even when using blue block glasses, a person should also consider the following things when using digital screens: taking regular eye breaks from using digital devices, engaging in more device-free and outdoor activities, keeping digital device screens at a comfortable angle and a good distance away from the eyes can may help prevent DES.