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Poor color vision (color vision deficiency) refers to when someone cannot see the depth or richness of specific color shades. It is commonly known as color blindness.
While color blindness is a common term, complete color blindness is rare. Total color blindness is when you can only see in shades of black, gray, and white. Typically, people with poor color vision have issues distinguishing between red and green.
Color blindness is common, especially in men. As much as eight percent of white males and 0.5 percent of females have it. Color blindness is an inherited condition, but it can also develop over time. It can occur if the eye is damaged due to injury or from another state that affects vision. Some medications and aging can also lead to color blindness.
New glasses advertise an improvement in color vision for people with common types of red-green colorblindness. While inherited color blindness currently has no cure, specially designed color-correcting eyeglasses may enhance the contrast between some colors.
There are many emotional, viral videos on the internet of people trying on color blind glasses for the first time. However, there is skepticism as to how well these glasses work. The results differ depending on the type and extent of an individual’s color vision deficiency.
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EnChroma is currently the most popular brand of colorblind glasses. The technology company is in California. EnChroma glasses were designed by Andrew Schmeder, a UC Berkeley-trained researcher and mathematician in perceptual psychophysics, and Don McPherson, Ph.D., a glass researcher.
Before co-founding EnChroma, Don McPherson invented laser safety glasses for surgeons.
EnChroma states that the underlying cause of most color vision issues is an abnormal overlapping response to light by cells in the retina called cone photoreceptors.
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Most often, this issue affects cone cells that are typically sensitive to either green or red wavelengths of light. This is how red-green color blindness occurs.
EnChroma glasses feature proprietary optical materials that selectively filter specific wavelengths of light where the overlap is occurring to address this abnormal overlap response. As a result, the wearer experiences more accurate color perception as the brain can better distinguish red wavelengths from the green.
Another brand of color blind glasses is the ColorCorrection System, created by Maryland optometrist Dr. Thomas Azman.
The ColorCorrection System uses special tests and filters to produce customized ColorCorrect Lenses to match the precise wavelength of light for an individual's color vision correction requirement. The filters are specially designed for each individual and can be applied to contact lenses and eyeglasses.
There are also other brands of color-blind correction glasses available for purchase online. Most of these products are inexpensive because they are simply eyeglasses with tint lenses, offering little or no benefit for people experiencing color blindness.
Genetic color blindness is caused by the absence of one or more of the three types of color-sensing cone photoreceptors in the retina. Or, it may be caused by a problem relating to it.
People who have issues detecting green (deuteranomaly) or red (protanomaly) light experience overlap between some of the light wavelengths that the brain understands as red or green color.
Color blindness glasses are produced with certain minerals to absorb and filter out some of the wavelengths between green and red that could confuse the brain. Some of the light reaching through the glasses is blocked so that the remaining red and green light wavelengths do not overlap as much.
When there is less color overlap, the brain receives a clearer signal to understand the problem colors.
Color blindness-correcting glasses will not adjust color perception for people whose deficiency results from a complete absence of red or green photoreceptors. Additionally, the positive effects of the glasses only remain while they are worn. Color blindness glasses do not in any way adjust an individual’s photoreceptors, optic nerves, or visual cortex to treat color blindness.
Color perception requires a whole set of optimally functioning equipment. Glasses will not replace or pair missing or broken mechanisms. The color blindness glasses adjust what the people who wear them see, improving the distinction between red and green.
However, the experience will vary significantly among individuals, and the glasses may not work for everyone. It is also essential to understand that color blindness-correcting glasses do not give a genuine equivalent of natural color vision.
A pair of adult EnChroma lenses cost between $200 and $400. For children, the glasses start at approximately $269.
Color blindness glasses are not currently covered by any insurance plan. If you have vision protection, you can ask about receiving EnChroma glasses as prescription sunglasses. You may be given a discount or voucher.
The EnChroma color blind glasses, in particular, are considered a luxury item. The materials that go into the lenses make up a significant amount of the cost.
Additionally, many people are willing to pay a lot, hoping that they will experience normal color vision when using the glasses, allowing brands to charge high prices.
As color blindness glasses reduce the amount of light reaching the eye, it is not good to wear them at night. Limiting the amount of light entering the eye might also be a problem for people with other eye conditions, like cataracts or macular degeneration.
The color blindness glasses manufacturer EnChroma also warns against using their glasses while driving.
Cost is another concern for the average customer. Color blindness glasses are a luxury item for many people as they can cost several hundred dollars.
While color blindness glasses can be effective for some individuals, people need to have realistic expectations of how much they may or may not help them before making a purchase.
Other devices are created to improve the contrast between colors, like hunting glasses and contrast-increasing filters for photography. These options may benefit some people better than color blindness glasses.
The best place to purchase color blindness glasses is directly from the EnChroma website. Alternatively, you can buy EnChroma glasses, and other branded color blindness glasses, on Amazon.
Do Colorblindness-Correcting Glasses Actually Work?, American Academy of Ophthalmology, July 2019, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/do-color-blindness-correcting-glasses-work
About us, EnChroma, https://enchroma.com/pages/about-us
Badawy, Abdel-Rahman et al. “Contact Lenses for Color Blindness.” Advanced healthcare materials vol. 7,12, 2018, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29696828/
Color blindness, National Eye Institute, July 2019, https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/color-blindness
Hassall, Mark M et al. “Gene Therapy for Color Blindness.” The Yale journal of biology and medicine vol. 90,4 543-551. 19 Dec. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5733843/
Melillo, Paolo et al. “Wearable Improved Vision System for Color Vision Deficiency Correction.” IEEE journal of translational engineering in health and medicine vol. 5 3800107. 2 May. 2017, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28507827/
Xie, John Z et al. “Color vision deficiency in preschool children: the multi-ethnic pediatric eye disease study.” Ophthalmology vol. 121,7, 2014,: 1469-74, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4839481/