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Colorblind Glasses: Everything You Need to Know

Colorblind glasses offer a way for those with color blindness to see the world around them more vividly.

kid wearing colorblind glasses

It used to be that if an eye care professional told you that you had color blindness, there wasn’t much you could do. Most likely, you would have been told that color blindness was a genetic condition and nothing could change it, and that you should probably avoid certain jobs that require accurate color vision.

But thanks to colorblind glasses, people with color blindness can enjoy enhanced color perception.

What Are Colorblind Glasses?

Colorblind glasses have special lenses that enhance the wearer’s perception of red and green specifically. Red-green color blindness is the most common type, so these glasses usually address this issue, though there are glasses that also correct for blue-yellow color blindness.

Although colorblind glasses do not “cure” color blindness, they do give colorblind people the ability to see the world more clearly and perceive a wider spectrum of colors when wearing the glasses.

What is Color Blindness?

Many people think of color blindness as seeing the word in black and white, but this is rarely the case. 

Most often, people who are colorblind still perceive colors to some degree, but they are more muted and dull than they are for people with normal vision. For example, a colorblind person may perceive bright green to be a dull shade of green or even grayish. 

Essentially, people who are colorblind see a much smaller spectrum of colors.

Color-sensitive receptors in the retina, known as cones, process how color is perceived. For people who are colorblind, their cones function abnormally or some are missing altogether, causing color distinction to overlap more than it should. This means it is difficult to differentiate between colors.

Types of Colorblindness

Again, it’s rare for people to be completely colorblind. It’s much more likely that someone has either red-green color blindness or blue-yellow color blindness.

Red-green color blindness falls into four types:

  • Deuteranomaly: This is the type that affects most people with color blindness. Green colors appear more red.
  • Protanomaly: With this type, red appears green and duller. 
  • Protanopia: People are unable to distinguish between green and red.
  • Deuteranopia: As with protanopia, people with this type are unable to distinguish between green and red.

Blue-yellow color blindness falls into two types:

  • Tritanomaly: Blue and green appear similarly, as do red and yellow.
  • Tritanopia: People with this type cannot distinguish between purple and red, yellow and pink, and blue and green.

How Do Colorblind Glasses Work?

It is important to understand how color blindness occurs in the human eye in order to comprehend color blind eyewear.

Within the retina of the human eye, there are three distinct color-sensitive receptors known as cones. Red, green, and blue are determined by these cones and sent to the brain, where the information is processed and interpreted.

But if the photo-pigment in these cones is low, they might offer an erroneous perception of the color of the items you are looking at. The most common faulty cones are the red and green ones, where the red cone may produce a higher reading of the reds than are genuinely in an item, essentially negating or modifying the greens in the object, hence the term red-green color blind.

Color blind glasses alter the saturation of the items you see through them, making them appear more heavily saturated in the hues that your eyes have difficulty seeing. This allows your brain to see the thing as if there was no impairment in your eyes at all, compensating for the missing hues.

Who Can Colorblind Glasses Help?

People with mild to moderate forms of colorblindness may benefit from colorblind glasses. But they do not work for everyone with colorblindness. 

Some people with severe color blindness do not experience improvement in color perception when they wear the glasses. 

In most cases, people must have some degree of color perception for the glasses to work. This means they generally won’t be effective for those with complete color blindness.

Some studies show that the effectiveness of colorblind glasses improves with sustained wear.

Why Are Colorblind Glasses So Expensive?

Most colorblind glasses cost an average of $250, but prices range up to $450 or more. Some budget-friendly or clip-on versions can be found for less than $100.

Generally, kids’ versions are less expensive, even for more upscale versions.

Colorblind glasses are still relatively new, so the higher cost supports the research and development behind the glasses. It’s possible that prices will drop somewhat over time.

Generally, colorblind glasses are not covered by insurance. However, in some cases, you may be able to get colorblind glasses partially covered by incorporating them into a general prescription lens. 

FSA (flexible spending account) or HSA (health savings account) funds may be applied toward the purchase of colorblind glasses. Talk to your plan administrator to confirm.

Best Colorblind Glasses

These are some of the top choices in colorblind glasses:

Enchroma

EnChroma is often thought of as synonymous with colorblind glasses, as they are the most popular option available. The company makes a wide range of indoor and outdoor lenses in an extensive variety of styles. 

EnChroma lenses are designed to enhance colors for those with red-green colorblindness. They are not designed to work for those with blue-yellow color blindness.

EnChroma lenses are lightweight, as they are made of Trivex.

Pilestone

 Pilestone colorblind glasses correct for different types of color blindness, depending on the type of lenses chosen. Their A, B, C, and D lenses correct for different variations of red-green color blindness, while their lens E is designed to correct for blue-yellow color deficiency.

Pilestone is known for their high-quality materials and stylish designs. They offer both outdoor and indoor options.

Vino

Vino Optics makes a variety of colorblind glasses that correct for red-green color blindness. Their glasses come in a range of styles, including affordable clip-on options that fit over other pairs of glasses.

They offer many styles for active individuals, including lightweight, durable versions that are good for those who play sports.

STBJ

This company offers more affordable options for colorblind glasses. They correct for red-green color deficiency, helping wearers to more easily differentiate colors.

They are resistant to scratches and block UV rays.

Where to Buy Colorblind Glasses

Amazon features many different brands and styles of colorblind glasses. You can also purchase directly from the EnChroma, Pilestone, or Vino websites, or check if they have a retailer near you. 

For prescription colorblind glasses, see an optometrist.

New Treatments for Color Blindness

There are some contact lenses available that are designed to address color blindness. They work similarly to the glasses. 

Potential gene therapies to address color blindness may also be on the horizon. 

Two ophthalmology professors at the University of Washington, Jay Neitz and Maureen Neitz, utilized gene therapy to correct color blindness in monkeys. An adeno-associated virus injection gets the genes into the cone cells of the retina. 

The Neitzes teamed up with Avalanche Biotechnologies and the University of Washington to further develop the gene therapy delivery system, but at this point, it is still in the research phase. 

Colorblind Glasses FAQs

Do colorblind glasses actually work?

Yes, colorblind glasses make it easier for some colorblind individuals to decipher colors. They are able to see the world more vividly and colorfully than they can without the glasses. 

Colorblind glasses don’t work for everyone. They won’t work for those with severe or complete color blindness.

Do colorblind glasses cure color blindness?

As with reading glasses, colorblind glasses don’t treat the eyes; they merely enhance color perception while they are being worn.

Can you wear colorblind glasses in the evening?

Yes, you can. They will have the same effect as wearing heavy sunglasses in terms of reducing your field of vision. However, it will be easier to tell if a light is red or green from a distance if you wear the glasses. So, when you need the glasses, such as when you drive, wear them.

Is there a cure for color blindness?

No, there is currently no cure for color blindness, though research in the area is ongoing.

Do I need a prescription for colorblind glasses?

No, colorblind glasses are available without a prescription. Though you do have the option to also get prescription colorblind glasses if you wish.

References

  1. Do Colorblindness Glasses Really Work? (March 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  2. Types of Color Blindness. National Eye Institute.

  3. Rods and Cones of the Human Eye. Arizona State University.

  4. Is There a High Concentration of Color-Selective Cells in Area V4 of Monkey Visual Cortex? (February 1982). Journal of Neurophysiology.

  5. Kids Color Blind Glasses. EnChroma.

  6. Contour, Color and Shape Analysis Beyond the Striate Cortex. (1985). Vision Research.

  7. The Distribution of Wavelength and Orientation Selective Cells in Different Areas of Monkey Visual Cortex. (1983). Vision Research.

  8. Functional Organization for Color and Orientation in Macaque V4. (November 2010). Nature Neuroscience.

  9. Effect of Background Colors on the Tuning of Color-Selective Cells in Monkey Area V4. (May 2006). Journal of Neurophysiology.

  10. Color in the Cortex—Single- and Double-Opponent Cells. (April 2012). Vision Research.

  11. Toward a Unified Theory of Visual Area V4. (April 2012). Neuron.

  12. Color Blindness May Soon Be Treatable With a Single Injection. (May 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  13. SubILM Injection of AAV for Gene Delivery to the Retina. (2019). Methods in Molecular Biology.

Last Updated May 10, 2022

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