If you’re living with epilepsy, you, like many of our members, may be interested in anything that could limit or eliminate your epilepsy symptoms. While there are many medications you can take, there may also be other things you can do — including trying special eyewear called epilepsy — or anti-seizure — glasses.
“Has anyone ever heard of anti-seizure glasses before?” asked one member of MyEpilepsyTeam.
These glasses do exist, and members of MyEpilepsyTeam regularly ask about them. Researchers have studied several types of glasses in relation to seizure prevention, most of which have colored lenses.
If these glasses could help you, they might make a great addition to your epilepsy treatment regimen, especially if you are still trying to find the best seizure medication for your needs. Here’s what you need to know to decide if trying these is right for you.
Epilepsy glasses can help prevent some types of epileptic seizures. They are usually useful to people with photosensitive epilepsy. They’re not likely to help people who have another type of epilepsy or experience other types of seizures.
Photosensitive epilepsy refers to a form of epilepsy where flashing lights (like strobe lights), patterns with a lot of light-dark contrast, or similar stimuli cause seizures. Around 3 percent of people diagnosed with epilepsy experience photosensitive seizures, according to the Epilepsy Society.
The best way to diagnose photosensitive epilepsy is to have an electroencephalogram (EEG) done while you’re exposed to either the lights or the patterns. This procedure allows doctors to see what the electrical activity in your brain is doing when you have these experiences.
You can experience a wide variety of seizure types with photosensitive epilepsy, including:
Epilepsy medications are the most effective way to treat photosensitive epilepsy. By staying away from the lights and patterns that set off these episodes, you might be able to reduce how often they happen and have fewer seizures. However, it’s rarely possible to avoid all flashing lights and contrasting patterns.
People who have photosensitive epilepsy may experience seizures in a wide variety of situations or environments. Sometimes, looking at a screen can cause them. This includes LCD computer monitors, television screens, video game screens, and even mobile phone and tablet screens. Rotating blades, like of a fan or a propeller, can make lights seem like they are flashing and cause seizures, as can sunlight coming through blinds or slats or viewed from a vehicle in alternating light and shadow patterns.
Sometimes, people living with photosensitive epilepsy experience seizures only when the light comes in certain patterns. A range of five to 30 flashes per second is most likely to trigger seizures, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
The effectiveness of epilepsy glasses depends on the type of glasses and the color of the lens.
A 2006 study looked at the effectiveness of a deep, dark blue lens called Z1, manufactured by a company called Zeiss, in controlling seizures. Researchers found that this lens made photoparoxysmal response (PPR) — that is, photosensitive seizure behavior — disappear in nearly 76 percent of the adults and children with epilepsy who tried them. It also reduced PPR in another 17.9 percent of participants. About 6 percent of study participants experienced no changes using the lens. These findings indicate epilepsy glasses may be very effective in controlling this kind of seizure activity. However, more research is needed to confirm these results and determine whether these lenses help people with other kinds of photosensitive seizure responses.
Some MyEpilepsyTeam members have had positive experiences with these lenses, too. One shares, “I had a friend (an optometrist) get his Zeiss rep to get me some goggles made with the Zeiss Z1, and so far I’m happy … I’ve only been to one serious light show (strobes and all). I couldn’t look AT the strobes, but if I shaded my face with a ball cap or turned backwards, I was fine. I lasted the whole show.”
Another small study compared PPR responses in eight people with epilepsy who either wore brown, neutral density lenses — which lower color intensity — or blue lenses. This study also showed that the blue lenses were the most effective in lowering PPR responses, though all of the lenses lowered the response to some extent. These changes were not as definitive as those in the study with the Zeiss Z1 lens. Again, more research is needed to determine the extent of aid that tinted glasses can give and who stands to benefit the most from wearing them.
Some MyEpilepsyTeam members have found that tinted glasses, regardless of color, significantly improve their symptoms. As one said, “My glasses have a tint on them, which really has helped.”
While this may not be true for everyone, it might be worth adding tinted glasses to your wardrobe if you live with photosensitive epilepsy.
If you choose to try epilepsy glasses, remember that they are not designed to be used in place of your epilepsy medication. They may help you avoid seizures or seizure symptoms that would otherwise get past your medication, but they should not be used as the only method of treatment for epilepsy.
If you have access to the Zeiss F133 Z1 lenses, they may be your best option. Get them in a pair of glasses or goggles and wear them whenever you might be exposed to the type of light or patterns that trigger your seizures. In some places, these lenses may be difficult to find. It may also be difficult or impossible to get your insurance company to pay for them.
If you cannot get these particular lenses or you want to try something that’s easier to obtain first, blue lenses may be your best option. If you cannot find these, you may want to find lenses with other tints, neutral density lenses, or simply try wearing dark lenses in situations where you might normally have seizures.
Some people may need to wear their lenses nearly all the time to get the most benefit from them. Others may only need to wear them occasionally. You may need to experiment to determine how often you want to wear them.
You may also need to get used to the lenses, especially if you have not worn glasses before. Take time to let your eyes adjust. Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery while wearing the glasses until you are absolutely confident that you can see everything you need to see.
If your epilepsy is triggered by screens, changes in lighting, or patterns, talk to your neurologist. Frequent seizures or seizure symptoms may mean that you need to try a different medication for effective seizure control.
Your neurology expert may also be able to help you get the most effective epilepsy glasses, if you decide together that you want to add them to your care plan. A health care professional can help you deal with your insurance company to get as much coverage as possible for your new glasses.
Your doctor can also help you evaluate whether epilepsy glasses are effective for you. They may ask you to report back regularly or to track your seizures with and without the glasses. That way, you’ll know whether it’s worth it to wear them or not.
MyEpilepsyTeam is the social network for people with epilepsy and their loved ones. On MyEpilepsyTeam, more than 114,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with epilepsy.
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