Discovery Eye Foundation
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Sunglasses - Colors for Low Vision Print E-mail
Share Share Prescription filters are one of the most important visual aids that people with macular degeneration will benefit from wearing.  The ultra-violet radiation and blue wavelengths of light can potentially damage the cells of the retina and too much light can actually reduce a person's ability to see, especially under very bright sunlight. 
Unfortunately, many people with macular degeneration have not been prescribed specialized sunglasses by their eye doctors and consequently their vision is not optimal nor are they protecting their eyes to the fullest level possible. 

People with macular degeneration should ask their eye doctors for specialized low vision filters.  Special tests will be performed by the doctor to determine the best color, darkness, lens material, and the best type of frame for the patient's specific needs.  It is very important that adults over the age of 60 years do not wear sunglasses that are too dark.  As one ages, the amount of light needed to see increases and the use of sunglasses that are too dark can actually contribute to falls.  As many as one-third of adults over the age of 60 years of age suffer from falls that result in broken hips, legs, or sprained ankles.  Thus, it is important for people with macular degeneration to consult with their eye doctors regarding the best type and color sunglasses for them to use.

Should all people with macular degeneration wear sunglasses?

Yes.  Sunglasses are one way of protecting the cells of the macula   from being damaged from the ultra-violet and blue wavelength radiation.  Studies have demonstrated  that ultra-violet and blue light can damage the photoreceptor cells of the macula and the use of lenses that will filter out both the ultra-violet and blue radiation are very important.  It is even more important for those adults who have had cataract surgery to wear protective lenses to provide maximal protection to the cells of the retina.

Do darker sunglasses provide more protection?

No.  The darkness of sunglasses does not necessarily protect the eyes from the ultraviolet radiation and the blue light.   The darkness of the lenses will reduce eye discomfort for those who are very sensitive to the bright light but the darker lenses do not provide more protection from ultra-violet radiation.  In fact, glasses can be made clear, without any color tint, and still filter the ultra-violet radiation from the sun.

Are there certain color lenses that are better for people with macular degeneration?

Yes.  Many people with macular degeneration have reduced color vision and reduced contrast vision.  Poor color vision can affect how well one may see a golf ball on the golf course while reduced contrast vision can affect how easily one sees steps and curbs.  For many people, the use of yellow, orange, and brown lenses can improve contrast vision and make it easier to see steps and curbs.  You may have seen how many pistol shooters or marksmen wear yellow glasses when shooting at the Olympics.  This is because yellow and orange increase contrast vision.  In other cases, some people with specific types of color vision problems may benefit from wearing a green or blue lens.

What color lenses protect my eyes from the blue light?

Yellow, amber, and brown lenses provide the most protection from the blue color light.

Are there glasses that will convert from a clear lens into a tinted lens when I am outdoors?

Yes.  Transitions is one brand of lenses that will convert from a clear lens when indoors to a dark lens when outdoors.  Transitions lenses will filter out the ultra-violet radiation and can also filter the harmful blue wavelengths of light.  Your low vision doctor can customize these lenses to be yellow or amber when indoors to reduce the glare from fluorescent lights and then the glasses will convert into a dark sunglass when outdoors.

I have Transitions glasses but they do not seem to get dark enough when I ride in the car.  Do you have any solutions?

Transitions glasses will not turn very dark when you ride in the car because the windshield of your car filters out the light that is needed to convert the lens into a darkened lens.  This is why it is important that your doctor understands how dark you need your glasses to be when riding in the car.  Ask your doctor to take you outdoors and to demonstrate various tinted lenses.  A better solution may be to wear a magnetic clip on that will fit onto the front of your glasses when you are in the car.  The clip on lens should be a polarized lens of the color and darkness that works best for you.  The advantage of a clip on or a pair of wrap around glasses that fits over your glasses is that you can quickly remove them and reapply them when driving in and out of tunnels.

What is a Polarized lens?

A polarized lens is a specialized material that blocks reflected glare.  Light from the sun that reflects off of windshields, car paint, concrete sidewalks, and water can be very problematic for people with macular degeneration.  When light bounces off of these surfaces, the light rays reflect in all directions, causing glare.  A polarized lens filters out the glare and greatly improves vision.  Polarized lenses also filter out the ultra-violet radiation and are excellent for people who do a lot of walking on concrete sidewalks, people who drive or ride in cars, and also for people who enjoy fishing and water sports.

My eyes are very light sensitive and I can barely open my eyes when outside.  What is the best sunglass for me?

Many people with macular degeneration are very sensitive to bright light.  This is because the macular cells regulate how the eyes adapt to various lighting conditions.  When the macular cells are damaged, most people are very uncomfortable in the bright sunlight.  Eyeglass frames that block the light from the top, bottom, and sides will reduce the discomfort of the eyes.  Low vision optometrists will often use a grey, plum, green, or blue lens to reduce the glare discomfort and some of these lenses may be coated with a mirror to reduce the amount of light that enters the eyes.   If needed, tinted lenses can be made such that only 1 percent of light enters the eyes!

Are over-the-counter sunglasses good enough?

Unfortunately, many sunglasses that are purchased at the department store, gas station, or at the beach do not protect the eyes fully from the harmful rays of the sun, despite the fact that they are often labeled as "UV filtering."  It is better for you to ask your eye doctor what color, what type of lens, what darkness, and what type of frame will be best for your eyes.  In addition, most people with macular degeneration will benefit from having their prescription incorporated into the glasses so it will be well worth the time and effort to have glasses that will provide the best vision and protection for your eyes.

Should I have different sunglasses for different times of the day?

For most people with macular degeneration, the use of multiple pairs of sunglasses will be the best solution.  In the early morning, a person may benefit from wearing a darker brown lens while in the mid-afternoon a grey lens may be better.  Having multiple pairs of sunglasses can be a problem and this is why low vision optometrists will often customize your sunglasses so that they will turn a different color or darkness depending on the time of the day.  Other solutions may include the use of clip-ons or additional glasses that can be worn over your prescription sunglasses.

My eyes are bothered when I am under fluorescent lights at the grocery store.  Are there sunglasses that I can wear for this situation?

Yes.  Fluorescent lights are one of the most common causes of glare.  When light from an overhead light shines light into your eyes, the light sometimes scatters and this causes disability glare.  The use of a hat, visor, and a polarized tinted lens can be very helpful for these situations.

I have macular degeneration and have tried both polarized brown and grey sunglasses.  They both seem to be too dark.  Do you have any suggestions?

Yes.  This is a very common complaint of people with macular degeneration.  Polarized lenses can be tinted to a customized darkness and the colors can also be customized.  One of the best Polarized lenses is called the Melanin lens.  People like this lens because it is not too dark and yet it reduces glare and does not distort color vision.

In summary, light can be a major problem for people with macular degeneration.  The ultra-violet and blue light from the sun can damage the cells of the retina while light can also cause glare and eye discomfort.  The use of tinted prescription glasses can improve the quality of vision as well as the comfort of the eyes for people with macular degeneration while also protecting the eyes from further vision loss from the harmful rays of light.   Ask your low vision optometrist and ophthalmologist to perform specialized tests to determine the best color, darkness, and type of lens material that will be best for you. 

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Bill Takeshita (Tuh-kesh-ta) at 310.458.3501 x103 or 818.705.5954.




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