When I was in middle school, I developed photophobia, also referred to as light sensitivity or a sensitivity to bright lights. I would come home from school almost crying due to eye pain from being around fluorescent lights all day, and started layering non-prescription sunglasses over my prescription glasses during my afternoon classes. After I told my eye doctor about this, they suggested I switch to using prescription tinted glasses to help with light sensitivity. This immediately made a huge difference, and I’ve been rocking tinted lenses ever since. Here is how tinted glasses help my light sensitivity as a person with low vision, photophobia, and a neurological condition.
Who benefits from tinted glasses?
Tinted glasses can be added to any prescription glasses and do not have to be requested by an eye doctor, though it is helpful to talk to an eye doctor about the appropriate tint color and tint level for individual eye conditions. Some examples of medical conditions that people might wear tinted glasses for include:
- Chiari Malformation
- Chronic migraine
- Low vision
- Sensory processing disorder/Autism
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual processing disorder
- Visual stress/Meares-Irlin Syndrome
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Tinted glasses vs Sunglasses
Unlike polarized sunglasses that distort LCD displays or make it difficult to use technology, tinted glasses are non-polarized lenses that provide a consistent color tint across all lighting environments. Tinted glasses do not change color based on lighting and do not affect screens. Tinted lenses can be added to any pair of prescription lenses and many opticians will add a tint to lenses at no cost.
I still wear sunglasses when I am outside or when I am at places that have a large amount of bright lights, such as sporting events or band performances.
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Choosing a glasses tint color and frames
Tinted glasses come in a variety of colors and tint strengths, including blue, grey, brown, purple, pink, yellow, and others. I recommend talking to an eye doctor, optician, or other eye specialist to determine what tint color will work best for an individual. My glasses are currently a Level 2 gray tint, which means that my eyes are visible through the glasses lenses but are partially obscured on camera, but my color vision is not affected.
When choosing glasses frames with tinted lenses, I recommend avoiding clear or thin wire frames, as these tend to look strange with tinted lenses. I prefer to wear plastic or acrylic frames that complement the color of the tint.
Glasses tints are applied by dipping the lenses in a colored solution. Depending on the tint and prescription, lenses may take up to an hour to absorb tints.
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How tinted glasses have helped me
Tinted glasses have made a tremendous difference for me in managing eye strain and photophobia in several different ways:
- Minimizing the glare from paper and screens when reading text- white paper/screens can trigger a lot of glare
- Reducing the effect of bright lights in the classroom and workplace
- Making it easier to look at bright screens for longer periods of time
- Reducing head and eye pain that is triggered by bright lights
- Improving focus when reading or looking at screens
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Do people notice my tinted glasses?
When I had a light Level 1 gray or brown tint in my glasses, no one noticed that I wore tinted glasses or asked me about it.
When I switched to having a darker/level 2 tint, it became more obvious that my glasses lenses were tinted, and people would sometimes ask me if I was wearing sunglasses inside or at night, or I would be asked to remove my glasses when taking photos.
When it comes up, I mention that I am not wearing sunglasses, and that these are non-polarized tinted prescription lenses- people usually let me keep my glasses on when taking ID photos when I mention that they are prescription glasses. Though I have to admit, I do sometimes jokingly tell people I am wearing sunglasses at night in reference to the song.
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More thoughts on how tinted glasses have helped my light sensitivity
- Over the years, there have been several celebrities spotted wearing tinted glasses, including Bono, Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne, and Johnny Depp. Lightly tinted sunglasses and tinted lenses are very fashionable!
- Some opticians offer sample lenses for testing out different tints and tint intensities- this was helpful when I was trying to figure out how dark I wanted to have my glasses
- When getting glasses tinted, the tint color can be added or removed from lenses during the dyeing process if the color needs to be more/less intense
- Tinted glasses are different than blue light glasses that are used specifically for screens
- Level 3 tint is typically completely opaque, meaning the wearer cannot see anything through their glasses