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Little light shed on study of colored glasses for light sensitivity after concussion

Colored glasses may provide light sensitivity relief post-concussion

Our Review Summary

This release offers few details on the actual benefits and evidence of wearing colored lenses to reduce light sensitivity following a concussion. There is no cost information, no comparison to alternatives (although alternatives are mentioned), no specific results on how patients fared in reducing light sensitivity and little in the way of description of the study.

To the casual reader, one might think that there’s a story here. But that’s what makes the lack of information so problematic. One can almost see the headlines: “Have a concussion? Look at life through rose-colored glasses.” With no proof in this release, reporters and readers can be misled into thinking that these findings are a bigger deal than they really are.

 

Why This Matters

Photophobia, or sensitivity to light, is a common symptom in the days or weeks following a traumatic brain injury. If the study results hold up in larger trials, wearing colored glasses instead of dark sunglasses indoors to reduce headaches could be a useful solution for this temporary condition.

Criteria

Does the news release adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of costs in the release.

Does the news release adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The study provides no actual numbers to back up the claim that 85 percent of the patients had improvements in their symptoms. The only hard number it mentions is “51 patients.” But the study itself says, “Of the 39 patients studied who had vision symptoms, 76% complained of photophobia…symptoms were relieved in 85% of patients reporting photophobia.” So first that drops the number to 30 (depending on how they rounded). Then, 85 percent of that would be 26 (generously rounding up), which is a pretty small number. Not to mention that we have no idea what relief of symptoms means. And for how long did these symptoms go away?

Does the news release adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The release says that there were no reported side effects while wearing colored glasses. It recommends against wearing colored glasses while driving since “certain colors make seeing stop lights or emergency vehicle lights difficult.”

Does the news release seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The true size of the study is obscured. There’s no sense of the duration. And there’s no explanation of the methodology.

Does the news release commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

We did not find any disease mongering in the piece. Concussion and TBI numbers are very tricky because so few concussions are actually captured. TBIs are mostly tracked through ER visits. The CDC puts the TBIs that lead to ER visits at 2.8 million annually. So given that there are likely more mild concussions than true TBIs, this puts the 3.8 million number into conservative territory — if not well below where it should be.

Does the news release identify funding sources & disclose conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

The release states, “There was no funding used for this study.”

Does the news release compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The release mentions some alternatives for finding relief from photophobia:

“In addition to trying colored-lens sunglasses, the article suggests other ways to mitigate photophobia including wearing a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors, adjusting digital screen and device settings to an appropriate hue and brightness or purchasing filters for screens.”

The release also notes that people find some relief by wearing dark sunglasses.

Does the news release establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

These lenses are presumably available at optical shops, but it’s unclear from the release.

Does the news release establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The release doesn’t tell us if testing different colored lenses on people with concussions is novel research. It does say that researchers found that “wearing certain color-tinted sunglasses may be a good alternative to dark sunglasses.”

Does the news release include unjustifiable, sensational language, including in the quotes of researchers?

Satisfactory

We find the language largely descriptive and not overly effusive beyond what appears to be supported by the study, however limited in scope it is.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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