Many people suffer from both color blindness and vision problems that require prescription glasses. The good news is that it is possible to get glasses that address both issues. Special lenses called color blindness correction lenses or color blind glasses can be combined with prescription lenses to create a single pair of glasses tailored to an individual’s specific needs.
What is color blindness?
Color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency, is the decreased ability to perceive differences between some colors. It affects a significant percentage of the population, with estimates ranging from 5% to 10% of men and up to 1% of women worldwide. There are different types of color blindness:
- Red-green color blindness – the most common type, involving difficulty distinguishing between reds, greens, browns, and oranges
- Blue-yellow color blindness – a rarer type, involving difficulty telling blues from greens and purples from pinks and reds
- Complete color blindness (monochromacy) – very rare, involving only seeing shades of gray
Color blindness is usually an inherited genetic condition. While it cannot be cured, various assistive devices are available to improve color perception for those with the condition.
What are color blind glasses?
Color blind glasses, also known as color blind correction glasses or color vision deficiency glasses, are specially tinted lenses designed to improve color perception for people with color vision deficiencies. They work by blocking or filtering out certain wavelengths of light that tend to confuse the eyes of people with color blindness.
There are a few different types of color blind glasses available:
- EnChroma glasses – block wavelengths most overlapping between red/green to increase separation
- Oxy-Iso glasses – block extreme ends of the light spectrum (infrared/ultraviolet) to increase contrast
- IRLUX glasses – use optical filters and prisms to separate overlapping colors
The most widely available currently are EnChroma glasses. They are designed primarily for red-green color blindness, which affects over 99% of color blind people. Research shows they can significantly improve color discrimination ability in those with moderate to strong types of red-green color blindness.
Can you get prescription color blind glasses?
Yes, it is possible to get color blind glasses made with your prescription. Here are a few options:
Custom-made prescription color blind glasses
Some companies that make color blind glasses can fabricate custom lenses with both the color blind correction technology and your personal prescription. They will require your prescription from your eye doctor.
For example, EnChroma offers prescription color blind glasses. You provide your prescription, choose a frame style, and their lab will manufacture lenses with both your prescription and their patented color blindness correction filters built-in.
Adding color blind lenses to existing glasses
If you already own prescription glasses, some optical stores and labs can add color blind correction lenses to your existing glasses. This may be a more affordable option than getting entirely custom glasses.
The store will pop out your current prescription lenses and replace them with lenses that have both your prescription and the color blindness correction technology.
Combining separate color blind lenses and prescription glasses
Another option is to purchase color blind glasses with plano (non-prescription) lenses and wear them over your regular prescription glasses. This may be uncomfortable for long periods, but can provide an affordable way to try out color blind glasses.
Some color blind glass companies also sell clip-on lenses that can be temporarily attached over prescription lenses to provide the color blind correction.
What to know about getting prescription color blind glasses
Here are some important things to keep in mind when getting prescription color blind glasses:
- Get your eyes examined – Make sure your prescription is up-to-date before ordering color blind prescription lenses
- Pick lens material – Lighter materials like polycarbonate or Trivex are recommended for color blind lenses
- Select coating options – Anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coatings can maximize lenses’ effectiveness
- Check light transmission – Lenses shouldn’t be too dark or they may impede color perception
- Adjust to use – It can take time to adjust to perceiving colors through the corrected lenses
- Manage expectations – Results and satisfaction vary; glasses may not work for all types/severities of color blindness
Consult with your optometrist and the makers of the color blind lenses to ensure you get maximum benefit from prescription color blind glasses.
Do insurance plans cover color blind glasses?
Prescription color blind glasses are considered a medical device and assistive technology for managing a health condition. However, most vision insurance plans do not provide coverage for them at this time.
A few reasons color blind glasses may not be covered:
- Considered an “enhancement” not a “necessity”
- Lack of clinical trials/data on long-term benefits
- Newer technology, will take time for widespread adoption
That said, some people have successfully appealed denials by having their eye doctor submit documentation that the glasses are medically warranted. As more research emerges on the efficacy of color blind glasses, coverage policies may evolve.
For now, individuals need to pay out of pocket for prescription color blind lenses. The cost can range from $350-$800, depending on lens options.
Where to get prescription color blind glasses
You have a few options for where to purchase prescription color blind glasses:
- EnChroma’s website – Order custom glasses online, input your prescription
- Eye care provider – Get glasses through prescription lens providers
- Optical shop – Visit a glasses store to add color blind lenses
- Online retailers – Sites like Glassesshop let you input prescription when ordering
Be sure to use a reputable provider that offers warranties and adjustment services. Verify they use high quality lenses and coatings to optimize the color blind glasses’ effectiveness.
Frequently asked questions
Do color blind glasses work for all types of color blindness?
Most color blind glasses are designed for red-green color deficiency. They are effective for protan and deutan deficiencies. They do not work well for blue-yellow color blindness, and are not effective for monochromacy.
Can you get prescription color blind contacts?
At this time, there are no color blind contacts or color blindness correcting contact lenses available.
Will insurance pay for EnChroma glasses?
No, most vision insurance plans classify EnChroma glasses as medically unnecessary and deny coverage. You will likely need to pay out-of-pocket.
Are online color blind tests accurate?
Online color blindness tests can provide an indication of possible color vision deficiencies but should not be relied on for a diagnosis. See an optometrist for professional clinical color vision testing.
The bottom line
It is possible to get glasses that address both color blindness and a need for vision correction. Prescription lenses can be custom-made or added to existing glasses. While insurance coverage is limited, the investment may be worthwhile for those who can benefit from enhanced color perception. Consult an eye care professional to determine if prescription color blind glasses are recommended for your particular visual needs.