Weekly Wellness: Do Color Blindness-Correcting Glasses Actually Work?
COLUMBIA- I am a total sucker for those tear-jerker viral videos. The videos of the military parents surprising their kids at graduation. The videos of first-responders saving the choking babies. The videos of people putting on special glasses that allow them to view colors for the first time.
But, I’m curious, how well do the color blindness-correcting glasses actually work?
Genetic color blindness is caused by an absence of, or problem with, one or more of the three types of color-sensing cone photoreceptors in the retina. People who have difficulty detecting green light or red light experience an overlap between some of the light wavelengths that the brain interprets as red or green color.
The special color blindness glasses are made to absorb and filter out some of the wavelengths between green and red that could confuse the brain. Some of the light coming through the glasses is blocked so that the remaining red and green light wavelengths don’t overlap as much. With less color overlap, the brain gets a clearer signal to help distinguish between the problem colors.
Color blindness-correcting glasses will not change color perception for people whose deficiency is caused by a complete absence of red or green photoreceptors. The glasses change what the people who wear them see, enhancing the distinction between red and green. But the experience will vary widely among individuals, and color blindness-correcting glasses don’t give people a true equivalent of natural color vision.
Some things to consider:
- Because they reduce the amount of light getting to the eye, it might not be a good idea to wear color blindness-correcting glasses at night. Reducing the amount of light getting into the eye might especially be a problem for people who have other eye conditions such as cataracts or macular degeneration.
- Color blindness-correcting glasses are generally not covered by insurance because color blindness doesn’t affect a person’s health, so treatment isn’t medically necessary.
- There are other devices designed to enhance contrast between colors (i.e. hunting glasses and contrast-increasing filters for photography). But products other than color blindness-correcting devices weren’t developed specifically to address the experience of people with color blindness.