My eye doctor first recommended that I get tinted glasses in eighth grade. I was worried people might tease me for looking like I wear sunglasses all the time. More specifically, I worried about teasing for wearing sunglasses at night. I had started developing light sensitivity, or photosensitivity, as my eyesight got worse, which doctors now believe is connected to my Chiari Malformation. My glasses have become more tinted over time to accommodate for my increasing sensitivity to light, but continue to help me be able to see the world without experiencing burning pain in my eyes. Here is how tinted glasses help me with my light sensitivity, in honor of National Sunglasses Day and the #ShadesForSight project with RNIB.
What are tinted glasses?
Tinted glasses are exactly what you think they are- glasses with a tint applied to them. There are a lot of different tints out there, some common ones being for anti-glare and color changing lenses, but I talk about colored tints throughout this post. Tints can go from being so light that no one notices them to being completely dark. For reference, my glasses are a “level 2” darkness according to my optician.
Conditions that may benefit from tinted glasses
I am not a doctor, but I do have lots of friends that use tinted glasses to help with light sensitivity. Here are some conditions that may benefit from the use of tinted glasses:
- Chronic migraines
- Low vision
- Visual stress
- Concussion/traumatic brain injury
Why they helped me in school
In the classroom, there are often sharp fluorescent lights that can be disorienting for some people, though not all. I found it hard to concentrate with the lights because they hurt my eyes. I did not want to ask the teacher to modify the lights for my own comfort. Once I got tinted glasses that helped filter out light, I was able to concentrate much easier in the classroom.
How are tinted glasses different than sunglasses?
Sunglasses are designed to be worn outside and can obstruct displays for electronic devices, making them very difficult to use. Tinted glasses remain the same color and can easily be used just like normal glasses. Tinted glasses do not affect reading or the ability to use technology.
People who use tinted glasses still benefit from using sunglasses outside or for activities featuring bright lights. For example, I wear sunglasses to pep band performances at basketball games.
How tints help with technology
Wearing tinted glasses helps me be able to interact with my assistive technology and other devices without experiencing large amounts of eye strain. As an extra measure, I also have a blue light filter on my devices to reduce eyestrain.
Creating tinted glasses
Tinted glasses are created by dipping the finished prescription lens into a dye and letting them sit for a period of time. The optician applies the tint one the prescription glasses are done. They often use my previous pair of glasses in order to match the tint. At one point I was told there was no such thing as tinted glasses for my prescription and an optician refused to tint them. We then went to my normal optician, who was more than happy to tint them for us. Heavier or specialty prescriptions may require different tinting techniques. Most tints can be applied fairly quickly- in about an hour or two.
Choosing a colored tint
There are several different colors of tint available. Your optometrist, ophthalmologist, or neurologist will recommend the best one for you.
I have had gray, brown, and purple tinted glasses in the past. Some of my friends have had tints that were yellow, pink, and even blue to help with light sensitivity.
With the gray, brown, and purple tints, I was still able to perceive colors normally. My ability to distinguish between shades of colors was not affected by the tint.
Why tinted glasses help me read
Black text on sharp white paper can create lots of glare and be difficult to focus on. With tinted glasses, I can read information on white backgrounds for longer periods of time than I can without a tint, and I am able to focus easier on text. It’s a well known fact that tinted backgrounds can help increase the readability of text.
Picking out a frame that compliments the tinted lenses
Tinted lenses tend to look strange with thin wire frames or clear frames. I recommend choosing a more substantial plastic frame, which helps to support thicker lenses and make the tint less noticeable. My glasses frame has several colors mixed into it, including shades of purple, gray, blue, and gold. My tint matches my frame closely and does not stand out as much.
Will people notice I wear tinted glasses?
People might notice you wear tinted glasses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will point it out to you, or if they do it won’t be more than once. Tinted glasses are becoming more and more commonplace, with celebrities like Johnny Depp, Elton John, Bono, and Ozzy Osbourne often rocking them wherever they go- and many of them use it for light sensitivity too. If people tease me for wearing tinted glasses, I just think to myself that I am cool enough to wear sunglasses inside.
Tinted glasses have helped me tremendously with managing my photosensitivity, and I highly recommend that anyone who is considering getting them to at least try them out. Tinted glasses have not only helped me manage my light sensitivity, but they have changed my life and helped me to stop hiding from light, and they might just do the same for you.