When 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, or specifically 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- read more about Chiari Malformation here. 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.
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 considered to be a “level 2” darkness according to my optician.
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:
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, and I did not want to ask the teacher to modify the lights for my own comfort. Once I got the tinted glasses that helped filter out light, I was able to concentrate much easier in the classroom. For students sensitive to flashing lights, read more about photosensitivity in the classroom here.
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 for reading, using electronics, and for any other task glasses would help with. 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. Speaking of pep band, read more about how I created a large print book that I could use while wearing sunglasses here.
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 screen tint on my devices that is applied in the settings menu so that I don’t strain my eyes too much. Read more about managing eyestrain with technology here.
Tinted glasses are created by dipping the finished prescription lens into a dye and letting them sit for a period of time. My glasses are tinted by an optician after my prescription lenses are completed, and 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, but then we went to my normal optician who was more than happy to tint them for us. Heavier or specialty prescriptions may require different tinting techniques, but most tints can be applied fairly quickly- in about an hour or two.
There are several different colors of tint available, and your optometrist, ophthalmologist, or neurologist will recommend the best one for you. I have had gray, brown, and purple tinted glasses in the past, though 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 and found that I could still distinguish individual shades with ease.
Black text on sharp white paper can create lots of glare and be difficult to focus on, especially for long periods of time. 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- read more about colored backgrounds and how they help here.
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. What I like about my particular frame is that there are 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. Read more about choosing glasses with low vision here.
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- read more about how I answer questions about my glasses here. 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. Read more about why I embrace wearing “Buddy Holly” glasses with thick lenses here.
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.