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Expanding Benefits of Tinted Lenses

Erica, Courtesy of Transitions Optical Inc.
Erica, Courtesy of Transitions Optical Inc.
Erica, Courtesy of Transitions Optical Inc.

They make a statement, provide anonymity, enhance performance, and increase quality of life in a myriad of ways. They are tinted eyeglass lenses.

Each color of lens is suited for specific situations. You will notice that many of the color properties overlap with each other. Whether they are performance, therapeutic, or fashion tints, each color causes the patient to perceive their surroundings differently.

The most common tinted lens color is grey. At it's darkest it can hide a poker face, help a deep sea fisherman snag the catch, and improve visual performance when driving. Grey lenses are color neutral, which means that they do not distort the integrity of colors, keeping them true. In fact, grey lenses have been in use by the U.S. Military for over 45 years because of their superior performance in various lighting conditions. 

Some patients prefer a grey/green lens to the traditional brown, citing that it provides crisper contrast, while being more color neutral than brown.

Brown/Amber lenses are also a popular choice. They provide better contrast and depth perception than grey, but colors are distorted. Brown/amber lenses are great for bright light conditions, but are especially suited to overcast, hazy, or foggy conditions. They block out blue wavelengths, which highlights the differences in greens, which can be helpful for golfers and baseball players.

Individuals who do a lot of driving would benefit from yellow lenses. The added contrast will decrease fatigue and increase visual acuity when driving in fog or haze, in overcast conditions, and at evening/night. For these same reasons, bikers, pilots, tennis players, hunters, and sport shooters can benefit from this lens.

Orange lenses eliminate blue light. They are perfect for sports that require an object to be tracked against the blue sky, such as a baseball. These lenses are often the lens of choice for clay target shooting on a cloudy day, but can also be helpful to bikers, skiers, and hunters. 

Vermilion is a reddish/orange lens often used by individuals who like to hunt and fish. It is chosen for its contrast capabilities. There are patients who are more satisfied with this color than with the more common brown and grey.

Red is a robust color that provides contrast and is another variety best suited for specific purposes. Clay target shooters may use this color in extremely sunny conditions. Fishing enthusiasts may opt for this lens when fishing in the early morning or later evening. 

Violet deserves mention as more than a fashion tint. Sport shooters and other athletes will use it for contrast in mid to bright conditions.

Fashion tints are generally tints applied for the appearance of their color rather than any traits of that color. Common examples of fashion tints are green, blue, pink, and purple. 

Tints of any purpose can be applied as a solid tint, causing the lens to be one solid, uniform color, or a gradient tint, when the intensity of the color lightens as it approaches the bottom of the lens. Double gradients and other color designs can be applied. For rimless or semi-rimless frame styles, edge tinting is also an option.

Whether the eyeglasses are for fashion or functionality, it is very important to educate patients on the fact that the pigment alone will not protect from ultraviolet light rays, and that every pair of eyeglasses should have ultraviolet coating applied, or be made from a UV absorbing material such as polycarbonate, Trivex or high index plastic.

Mirrored lens coatings perform double duty as both a fashion tint and a functional tint. Skiers and those who spend a lot of time on the water in bright conditions can benefit from the fact that the mirror reflects light away from the lens. The color that is chosen for the mirror is the patient's preference and will not affect the base color of the lens. 

Back side anti-reflective coatings can aid in creating an optimum sun lens by eliminating glare and allow the patient to get the most out of their sun wear. Anti-reflective coating cannot be applied to the front of a tinted lens, as the lens treatment process is not conductive to tinting.

Polarized lenses are different than tinted lenses, and not every tinted lens is polarized. They are made using horizontal strips of pigment to diminish flat glare, such as that found on water, metal and chrome. Polarized lenses diminish glare more effectively than tinted lenses are able to. Both polarized lenses and tinted lenses serve various purposes in the realm of sun wear. 

Tinted lenses have been found to have an ever increasing therapeutic benefit.
The Irlen lens system was created by Helen Irlen to remedy Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome/Irlen Syndrome, which is a visual/perceptual disorder. The disorder is displayed by some patients with learning disorders such as dyslexia, autism, and other developmental disorders.

The disorder is often triggered by aspects of lights, such as the source, brightness, reflection, glare, color and color contrast. When reading, words and letters on the page will vibrate and move. Patients can have problems with contrast, tunnel, or peripheral vision, and have difficulty paying attention. Some autistic patients report that they perceive their surroundings as pieces of a puzzle, with sparkles, tones, and movement.

The Irlen lens system started out as a series of transparencies that patients put over sheets of reading material. The color of the transparencies reduced the contrast between black and white, and the intensity of the colors. The chosen color of the transparency depended on each patient's specific needs. 

Irlen also used colored lenses to achieve the same outcome. Many autistic patients also wear colored lenses to alter how they perceive their environment, and see their surroundings in context with one another, rather than unrelated elements. 

Psychologically, colored lenses have improved mood for patients suffering from types of depression. Patients who have light sensitivities, who work under fluorescent lights, or who use a computer may benefit from a light to mid range tint of rose, brown or grey. It will decrease eye strain and fatigue.

Melanin is the pigment found in our skin, eyes, and hair. It absorbs harmful ultraviolet rays and has been used in lenses for over 30 years. It is generally an orange/brown color. However, claims that melanin lenses can cure age related macular degeneration are unfounded. Any UV absorbing lens, with or with out melanin can reduce the chance for AMD and cataracts if worn from childhood. 

Blue colored lenses are being researched as a therapeutic tool for the treatment of epilepsy. Studies have been conducted with both cross polarized lenses (the axes of polarization are perpendicular), parallel polarization (axes of polarization are the same), and without polarization. Epileptic seizures have been reduced in some patients with the varieties of blue lenses, while other patients have experienced no relief with this therapy.

Although there are many types of lens tints and options, patients all have their preferences as to what works best for them. Don't be afraid to suggest and demonstrate different lens hues and treatments, but also think about what the patient wants rather what you think they should have.

Nicole Wellnitz ABOC


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