ptician Lorne Kashin used to dread driving through construction zones on his way home at night. While navigating the temporary twists and turns in the road, he often worried that he would hit a pylon. Kashin is among many Canadians who have trouble with colour perception in dim light.

Because of its location on the colour spectrum, reds are most diminished in the dark and this makes colours appear dull. The problem worsens as we age because the crystalline lens, the secondary lens behind the cornea, turns yellow or becomes more clouded. 

This is one of a few eye problems — the others being various changes that reduce the amount of light captured by the eye and  hamper the eye’s ability to adjust from bright to dim light — that make it difficult for some older Canadians to see after dark and in dimly lit places such as movie theatres and restaurants.
When Kashin, former president of the Opticians Association of Canada, started wearing glasses whose lenses have a coating that supplements the transmission of red wavelengths, he experienced enhanced colour perception and contrast — and his drive home became much easier.

Kashin has recommended this lens coating to many of his clients at his Thornhill establishment, The Eyeglass Factory.

“We’re getting very positive feedback from them,” he says. “People are seeing much better [in dim light].”

Dr. Michael Kaplan, owner and optometrist at the Eye Care Clinic in North York, also recommends the new lens coating. “It certainly helps with vision in dim light. There’s no doubt that it enhances vision, makes it easier to see.”

Reducing blue light eye damage

Another new lens coating on the market not only reflects blue light but also absorbs it, significantly reducing the amount that gets through to the eye.

Studies tend to show that blue light penetrates deep into the eye, damaging the retina and contributing to macular degeneration and cataracts. Known as high-energy visible light, it also causes eye strain and disrupts sleep because it suppresses the natural release of melatonin, the hormone that tells us when it’s time to sleep.
Aside from sunlight, the most common source of blue light exposure is digital screens. As we spend an ever-increasing amount of time in front of our televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets, we suffer more of the damage associated with blue light exposure. For that reason, an increasing number of Canadians are investing in blue-filtering lens coatings that also provide UV protection.

“Our clients were already educated about the danger of blue light so when the newest generation of this lens coating came out, it was a natural transition” says Kashin.

Kaplan says his patients are very receptive to these kind of lens coatings. “We’re even giving them to people who don’t wear prescription glasses but spend a lot of time with their digital devices,” he says. “There is a lot of clinical evidence that indicates some blue light wavelengths hurt the retina,” he adds. “From that we can deduce that by wearing a lens that blocks out some of these blue light wavelengths, you reduce the risk of developing retina problems that cause macular degeneration.”

As lens coatings become more sophisticated, there are more options than ever before to help people preserve and improve their vision. If you’re concerned about the effects of blue light on your eyes or have trouble with color perception, light sensitivity, especially in dimly lit places, talk to your eye care professional about trying the latest in lens coating technology.