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News, Research

Australian study highlights ambiguity of blue light-blocking lenses

15/05/2019By Myles Hume
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New research investigating Australian optometrists’ knowledge of blue light-blocking lenses has reaffirmed the inconclusive evidence supporting their use, with many practitioners attributing patient responses to placebo effects.

In the first study of its kind, University of Melbourne researchers canvassed 372 registered Australian optometrists in a 29-item survey to better understand knowledge, attitudes and prescribing patterns of blue light-filtering devices, such as spectacles and intraocular lenses.

The research formed part of student Mr Sumeer Singh’s PhD studies and involved Dr Laura Downie and Associate Professor Andrew Anderson. It was presented at the recent 2019 Annual Meeting for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Vancouver, and appeared in the journal Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics.

According to the findings, 74% of Australian optometrists prescribed blue light blocking lenses to patients. Of those who recommended the lenses, 44% considered daily environmental exposure to blue light as a potential cause of retinal damage, with computer and electronic device use being the most common reason (87%) for prescription.

Associate Professor Andrew Anderson
Associate Professor Andrew Anderson
“It's hard to know exactly what advice to give if you don't know what the current prevailing attitude and uses of these products are”
Associate Professor Andrew Anderson, University of Melbourne

Approximately 50% of respondents believed blue light emitted from devices was a main factor in computer vision syndrome. Interestingly, half also considered placebo effects to potentially play a role, at least sometimes, in patients' experiences with blue light-blocking lenses.

“Prescribing trends by Australian optometrists in relation to blue light-blocking lenses reflect the inconclusive nature of several aspects of the evidence in this field,” the researchers concluded.

“Blue light-blocking lens prescribing has increased since 2010, despite practitioners acknowledging the lack of high-quality evidence to support their use and also commonly believing that placebo effects may have a role in patient responses to these lenses.”

The study also found conference presentations and manufacturer information were the two main information sources optometrists used to guide patient management.

“We found substantial discrepancy between practitioners’ knowledge of the percentage of blue light filtered by different lens products and the actual amount of blue light attenuation. Although the cause of this discrepancy is not clear, it may reflect that manufacturers do not routinely provide precise information about the lens transmission characteristics,” the study warned.

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Anderson said while there were currently no clinical guidelines in this field, information from this study could help inform the development of resources to guide an evidence-based approach to prescribing blue light-filtering lenses.

“It's hard to know exactly what advice to give if you don't know what the current prevailing attitude and uses of these products are. This study is a useful and necessary first step,” he said.

Downie said it was challenging for eyecare providers to make clinical decisions without high quality evidence to guide them. “We are now undertaking another study that will build upon the evidence in relation to whether these devices are actually beneficial for certain aspects of visual performance.”

 

More reading:

Optometry Australia takes lead on blue light debate
Blue light filters shown to not reduce digital eye strain
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