Question: I have macular degeneration (AMD), and am looking for the best filter for me. What macular degeneration glasses would you recommend?

Answer:

When it comes to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), I find it difficult to make suggestions because:
– research is inconclusive,
– AMD is not my primary focus, and
– it seems very difficult if not impossible to perceive/feel the effect of any given filter on the progression of AMD (except, perhaps, over a longer period of time).

However, researching blue light filters over the last few years, I have also accumulated some knowledge about AMD and have some ideas about what might be the best macular degeneration glasses.

For example, one report suggests that the critical blue light wavelengths to block are from 415-455nm [Phototoxic Action Spectrum on a Retinal Pigment Epithelium Model of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Exposed to Sunlight Normalized Conditions (2013)].

This finding is not that surprising. The wavelengths of light that appear most likely to cause damage to our central vision coincide with the wavelengths that are blocked the most by our Macular Pigment.

Macular pigment’s transmission is low from 430-490nm and the lowest around 460nm (see macular pigment spectral below, source: fluxometer.com, for macular pigment at MPOD = 0.5).

macular pigment as blue light filter spectrogram

 

Therefore, until research provides more conclusive data about harmful light wavelengths and intensities, my (risk-averse) guess for the best blue light filters for macular degeneration, would be one that blocks all (blue) light – up to about 500nm.


Disclaimer: My interest in blue light and blue light filters (and to a lesser extent AMD) is due to my problems with light sensitivity (photophobia), discomfort glare, and computer eye strain. I am not a vision scientist nor a medical doctor or an AMD researcher.


 

Testing glasses

If you wanted to test what might work I’d recommend GLARminY Tester.

You might consider trying Filter 2 (blocks 100% of blue light up to ~490nm, i.e. cutoff at ~490), Filter 1 (cutoff at ~ 525nm), or even Filter 0 (cutoff at ~570nm) of GLARminY Tester blue light filter test kit.

If you feel the remaining light, say in sunlight, is still too bright, you can try using the Tester on top of grey sunglasses. If you are able to determine that such a filter stops or slows down your macular degeneration – you would then look for sunglasses with the same (similar) cutoff as the Tester filter. This means that sunglasses’ transmission curve would be at 0% up to the cutoff. Above the cutoff the sunglasses’ transmittance curve would be considerably lower than the curve of your preferred Tester Filter – by about 3/4.

The most likely tint for such sunglasses will be some tone of brown/copper.

If you think you don’t need to get the Tester, you can find similar filters to the above-mentioned Filters 0,1, and 2 in this table.

Also, an excellent source with a really good (perhaps the best) selection of different blue blocking tints (all equipped with spectrograms), for indoor and outdoor (sunglasses) use, fit-over, clip-ons, is NoIR Medical. On the left side of their site you can even filter tints they recommend based on several different conditions, including macular degeneration.

 

Playing it safe

The above suggested recommendation is very much on the safe side and might be an overkill, but your retina is being damaged right now and you need a solution now. So, until we have better research data, it seems the prudent thing to do.

 

Don’t block blue and drive (particularly at night)

Note that if you are planning on driving with stronger blue light filters, you’d have to be careful. For example, with Filter 0 and possibly 1 you might not see green traffic lights at all (you will still be able to see red and yellow).

Moreover, blue blockers reduce importantly your night vision that principally depends on blue light. Hence, in many countries blue blockers (particularly stronger ones) are discouraged, when not prohibited, for night driving.

 

Macular degeneration protection that is better than glasses

The most important thing I’d recommend to anyone with AMD is to try macular pigment supplements with meso-zeaxanthin. It is a solution that should work in a matter of a few weeks.

Again, in the AMD research this method is hypothesized to be helpful, but the evidence for its effectiveness in stopping or slowing down the progression of macular degeneration is not yet conclusive.

However, macular pigment is by far the best blue light filter. Not only because, when not depleted, its spectral transmission properties perfectly match our eye’s needs, but also because:
– it is an anti-oxidant that slows/stops oxidative processes at the macula, i.e. AMD [Effects of the Macular Carotenoid Lutein in Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells (2017)],
– it is placed only in front of the photoreceptors for daytime vision, such that it doesn’t interfere with our low-light vision, and also
– it is natural.

If you decide to try the above suggested solutions, let everyone know how it’ll have gone in the comments or by writing to me. Providing this info, you might be able to help others with macular degeneration.

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