Tinted shades have long been a fashion trend for outside, but more recently people have adopted the practice of wearing tinted glasses for indoor use. Why? Well, it has been prompted in large part by a better understanding of the potentially negative health effects of light (particularly blue and other artificial light) on the eyes and brain. In this post, we look at the key considerations before purchasing a pair of indoor tinted eyeglasses.
Do you need them for light sensitivity or photophobia?
It is important to understand your motivation for purchasing tinted eyewear, and the first place to start is whether or not you need them for health reasons.
If you have a strong sensitivity to light—particularly as a symptom of a chronic condition like migraine or TBI—then that may help better pinpoint the type of therapeutic tint that will work best. Clinical research has shown that FL-41 tinted glasses provide the most relief for chronic photophobia, offering extensive protection against fluorescent lighting and other bright sources. This tint blocks specific wavelengths that cause the most problems, therefore reducing migraines and headaches triggered by artificial light as well as other corresponding symptoms like: dizziness/vertigo, eye pain, and even seizures.1-3
More variety may exist for eyewear that specifically helps with computer screens and improved sleep. FL-41 lenses can be appropriate if you already have a pre-existing disorder that causes sensitivity to digital screen light, but there are other categories of so-called blue blockers that claim to ease the eye strain and discomfort of computer use. It is important to note that they filter different wavelengths from FL-41 eyewear and their effectiveness can vary wildly; this explains why some have a noticeable tint (yellow, amber) and others look almost clear coated. That said, many customers do vouch for their benefits. We suggest conducting your own research as well as asking your physician about potential options.
Lastly, if there are no underlying health needs for tinted glasses, then the color really comes down to your own preference. We just want you to remember to be respectful and understanding of those who do not have a cosmetic choice.
Are there side effects of wearing tinted glasses?
There are no direct side effects regarding the use of eyeglasses tinted for indoors; however, certain people might experience an adjustment period. For example, tinted eyewear can affect accurate color perception for a small number of people, although it is rare and more likely to impact those with existing vision or color issues. In addition, by blocking certain wavelengths or colors of light, contrast can be heightened—this makes the resulting image appear sharper and even brighter. Most are able to adjust immediately, and the few who have to deal with these issues often calibrate within just a few days or weeks.
Know company rules if you plan to wear them on the job
Workplaces still have a long way to go regarding the acceptance of regular use of tinted eyeglasses in their offices. However, it is improving largely due to the education and awareness of the health impact of light. Still, you should check with your supervisor and/or your human resources representative(s) to understand the rules related to indoor use. But do not get discouraged if it initially is prohibited—you might be able to get special exception or workplace accommodation if you have a light-sensitive condition.
Make sure they are not too dark for indoors
Tinted lenses that are too dark pose a significant risk, even for healthy individuals, when worn regularly indoors.5 Your eyes begin to adapt to the darker view, which makes future light exposure feel brighter and possibly even painful; in effect, your eyes become more sensitive to light. For this reason, wearing sunglasses or darkly-tinted lenses inside should be avoided. In addition, you might also experience social consequences for sporting overly-dark glasses inside. Although no magic number exists, we recommend aiming for around 50% visible light transmission or greater for indoor wear.
Avoid polarized lenses for indoor glasses
Polarization of lenses might sound like a good idea, especially if glare wreaks havoc on your eyes, but it will likely create more problems than it will help. Specifically, it can make it harder to read your mobile device or computer screen, and it often increases the overall darkness of the lenses too. We have also found that polarized lenses can create visual distortion for some people—particularly if the chosen frame style has noticeable curvature.
Additional coatings can enhance therapeutic tints
Anti-reflective (AR) coating is an option for interior glare, improving vision and adding even more protection if you are light sensitive. Furthermore, although it may be more appropriate outside, UVA/UVB blocking lenses can offer benefit indoors for those who need it.
Can you get tinted lenses with prescription?
Whether you source your eyewear from tinting specialists (like TheraSpecs for FL-41) or from your local optical shop, you can get prescription glasses with your preferred color choice. The process typically involves creating new lenses, instead of applying the tint to your existing corrective glasses. Just make sure that the tint filters the appropriate wavelengths, if that is important to you.
1Good PA, Taylor RH, Mortimer MJ. “The use of tinted glasses in childhood migraine.” Headache. 1991 Sep.
2Blackburn MK, Lamb RD, Digre KB, Smith AG, Warner JE, McClane RW, Nandedkar SD, Langeberg WJ, Holubkov R, Katz BJ. “FL-41 tint improves blink frequency, light sensitivity, and functional limitations in patients with benign essential blepharospasm.” Ophthalmology. 2009 May.
3Wilkins AJ, Wilkinson P. “A tint to reduce eye strain from fluorescent lighting? Preliminary observations.” Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 1991 Apr.
4Digre KB, Brennan KC. Shedding Light on Photophobia. Journal of neuro-ophthalmology : the official journal of the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society. 2012;32(1):68-81. doi:10.1097/WNO.0b013e3182474548.