If you have photosensitive epilepsy, then seizure triggers can come at unexpected moments. You could be playing a video game when the screen starts flashing, or you might be at a concert when strobes suddenly start up.
Some people find that epilepsy glasses can help manage the unpredictable nature of photosensitive seizure triggers. Let’s find out more about photosensitive epilepsy glasses and if they could be suitable for you.
What are seizure glasses?
Seizure glasses include a few different types of eyewear that people with photosensitive epilepsy might use to reduce their risk of having seizures. Depending on what your seizure triggers are, you might choose to wear them all the time, or only on certain occasions - perhaps using your epilepsy glasses for concerts, where strobe lighting is more likely.
There are two broad types of photosensitive epilepsy glasses:
- Polarized sunglasses: These are sunglasses that have a special chemical added to the lenses which reduces glare. Studies show they can help people with photosensitive epilepsy, especially if their seizures are triggered by light in nature (e.g. light reflecting off water or between trees).
- Tinted lenses: For many years, studies have shown that glasses with tinted lenses help some people with photosensitive seizure - and a blue tint seems most effective. There is a German company named Zeiss whose blue lenses seem especially effective at helping reduce photosensitive seizures (a study found that 76% of people with photosensitive epilepsy who used the Zeiss Z1 blue lens found their light-triggered seizures disappeared).
We don’t know exactly why tinted or polarized glasses seem to reduce seizures, but it could be that they reduce the amount of light entering the eyes. That in turn means the brain isn’t stimulated as much.
While glasses for epilepsy might help some people, it’s important to be aware that they won’t help everyone.
Pros and cons of seizure glasses:
Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of epilepsy glasses:
- Plenty of evidence shows they help reduce the risk photosensitive seizures for many people
- Non-invasive way of reducing seizure risk
- Easy and quick to put on and carry around
- Can improve confidence with daily activities or at events
- Can be relatively expensive
- Will need to be replaced every couple of years (tinted lenses are more costly than standard lenses)
- Not always convenient or comfortable to wear (especially at night or indoors)
- Tinted lenses in particular can make the world look a strange color
- Not guaranteed to work
- You may need ‘wrap around’ style glasses to prevent light entering from the sides
Where to get epilepsy glasses
If you’re thinking of buying a pair of seizure glasses or lenses, then it’s first a good idea to speak with your neurologist. They can tell you if they think it’s necessary. It’s also worth visiting an optometrist who can advise you on the most suitable lenses and glasses for you.
While polarized sunglasses are easy to find in any store or online, blue tinted lenses (especially the Zeiss brand) can be harder to locate. Here are some optometrists who supply them in North America, both as blank or corrective lenses:
- Chadwick Optical (based in PA)
- Mountain View Optometry (based in Canada)
- You can also use Zeiss’s website to find optometrists near you who may stock Z1 lenses
The cost of epilepsy glasses depends on a lot of factors, including the frame, brand, and the optometrist’s fees. At the lower end, you might be able to find polarized sunglasses for less than $20. Blue tinted lenses will usually cost more - expect to pay $100 and up. Your health insurance may cover some, or all of the cost of such lenses.
Getting started with epilepsy glasses
If you think you might benefit from wearing seizure glasses, the first thing to do is to speak with your epilepsy specialist. They can advise on whether you really need them, and they may be able to recommend an optometrist near you who offers a good range of lenses and frames for you to choose from.