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.
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.
There is no mention of costs in the release.
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?
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.”
The true size of the study is obscured. There’s no sense of the duration. And there’s no explanation of the methodology.
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.
The release states, “There was no funding used for this study.”
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.
These lenses are presumably available at optical shops, but it’s unclear from the release.
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.”
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.