What to Know About Colorblind Glasses

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on August 25, 2022
5 min read

We often take our ability to enjoy the varied colors of nature for granted. Statistics show that 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women can't fully distinguish these colors due to a condition called color blindness. This condition affects around 300 million people globally.

Color blindness is a condition in which some of the color-sensing receptors (i.e., the retinal cones) in your eye don’t function properly or are absent, leading to an inability to see or distinguish between certain colors. 

The degree of color blindness can range from mild to severe. The complete inability to see any colors except white, black, and gray is called achromatopsia. But this is rare. In most cases, you can still see colors, but they appear dull or muted.

You can inherit color blindness from your parents. This type is more common in men. Women are usually carriers of the condition, which means that they don’t experience symptoms but can pass color blindness on to their children.

It can also occur due to injury to your optic nerve. Color blindness is associated with certain conditions like glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and diabetic retinopathy, which involve optic nerve damage. Some medications or toxic chemicals can also result in color blindness as a side effect.

Human color vision requires the presence and proper functioning of the red, blue, and green photopigments in the eye.

The three main types of color blindness are red-green color blindness, blue-yellow color blindness, and total color blindness (achromatopsia).

Red-green color blindness occurs when you can’t distinguish between red and green. It is subcategorized into four types:

  1. Protanopia. This involves an absence of red cones, so you won't be able to perceive red color.
  2. Deuteranopia. This involves an absence of green cones, making it difficult to perceive green color.
  3. Protanomaly. This involves a decreased ability to perceive red light. Red appears greenish and muted.
  4. Deuteranomaly. This is the most common type and involves a decreased ability to perceive green light. Green appears red in this case.

Blue-yellow color blindness occurs when you can’t distinguish between blue and yellow. It is subcategorized into two types:

  1. Tritanopia. This involves an absence of blue cones. You can’t tell the difference between blue and green, purple and red, and yellow and pink.
  2. Tritanomaly. This is extremely rare and involves a decreased ability to perceive blue light. You can’t differentiate blue from green and yellow from red.

Color blindness used to be an untreatable and debilitating condition. But now, colored lenses and colorblind glasses are available to help you cope with color blindness effectively. 

Although these glasses can't permanently cure color blindness, they can compensate for your vision deficiencies, leading to an improved quality of life.

Colorblind glasses don’t treat your eyes directly. They’re spectacles with specialized tinted lenses that can improve the accuracy of recognizing and distinguishing colors. 

The human eye contains three photopigments — red, blue, and green — in the receptors of the retina. These receptors detect the different wavelengths of colored light and send signals to the brain. The brain then deciphers this information and sends you feedback to help you identify and distinguish colors. You then perceive a precise visual image.

Colorblind people either lack some photopigments or have photopigments that don’t function as well as they’re supposed to. Colorblind glasses increase the vibrancy of objects by increasing the saturation of the colors that you find difficult to identify. These enhanced hues can make it easier to differentiate between the various colors of your surroundings. 

Anyone with a mild to moderate degree of color blindness can benefit from wearing colorblind glasses. But these glasses can't help if you have extremely severe color blindness or if you can't see any colors at all. This is because colorblind glasses only improve the color saturation of the surroundings, so a baseline level of color perception is necessary for them to work.

Colorblind glasses usually don’t require a prescription. They act like sunglasses in terms of limiting your field of vision.

Recent research suggests that the long-term use of colorblind glasses could improve the eye’s response to these lenses, resulting in greater effectiveness of wearing colorblind glasses.

Colorblind glasses can be quite expensive because they’re a newly developed technology that requires costly materials. Research is still ongoing in this field, and companies that make and sell these glasses direct most of the money they charge for them toward funding more studies to optimize this technology. 

Once this technology is fully developed and the glasses can be mass-produced at low costs, the prices could eventually stabilize.

Colorblind glasses are currently priced at around $200 to $250, but they can cost as much as $450 or higher. Clip-on versions of these glasses are also available for lower prices of less than $100. Comparatively, colorblind glasses for children are much more affordable.

Colorblind glasses are usually not covered by health insurance because they don’t affect your overall health and aren’t considered necessary. But these expenses could be covered through funding plans like a flexible spending account or health savings account

In certain cases, the expense of colorblind glasses could even be partially covered under the insurance for general prescription glasses, but you may need to confirm this with your insurance provider.

So, are colorblind glasses worth it? There is no clear-cut answer to this question, as there are many factors that you need to consider before making a decision. These factors include the type and severity of your color blindness, your age, your activities, the cause of your color blindness, and your financial condition. Colorblind glasses may also lower your night vision and might not be suitable for outdoor activities like driving.

A wide range of styles of indoor and outdoor colorblind glasses with or without a prescription are available today. 

Choose the best colorblind glasses for you only after adequate research and a consultation with your health care provider.