New lens brightens the world for color blind patients

Dr. Christa Walling tests Trent Smoll's color blindness.
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When the NFL's Bills and Jets wore red and green during their Thursday night match up last week, it was tricky for the color blind to keep track of who had the ball.

A sporting event is just one scenario of many that frustrated Greenfield optometrist Dr. Christa Walling.

"You can imagine an eye doctor diagnosed someone as color blind fairly often, because it's 8-10 percent of men, less than one percent of women, and you could tell them that they're color blind and you couldn't do anything about it," Walling said.

She lived it at home, too. Remembering when her father wore a black and a brown shoe to work.  Watching her two sons unable to detect colored Easter eggs in the grass, or a dirty softball rolling right at them. Walling wanted to do better, so she pursued and secured distribution rights for the newer Enchroma lens, marketed as offering color to the color blind.

"You can get them in California, you can get them in Texas and here," said Walling of Hancock Eye Associates in Greenfield.

Walling says the specialty lens come in three tints. She estimates wearing them brighten the view for 70-75 percent of people with color vision deficiencies.

"There is red color blindness, green color blindness and blue color blindness. It's more rare to be blue, most are red or green. The greens are the ones that these help the most," Walling said.

One of her first customers was 40-year-old Trent Smoll. He is a Hancock County Sheriff's deputy, wanting to make sure he's seeing what he should.

"Let's say you are dispatched to look for a red car and the car passes you and you think it's burgundy or brown. You would have a serious problem, you are looking for a red car, there is one passing you and you don't know it," Smoll said.

Smoll took the standard color blind test. He was asked to identify colored shapes and numbers. His test results revealed he is a has a mild-to-moderate green defect. For two months now, he's been wearing the Enchroma lens. He picked a lens which has a light blue tint. It changes the way his eyes capture the light and now he says his view is more vibrant.

Outside, he reveals without the glasses on, a fire hydrant appears burgundy or brown. A cherry red car appears to be dark orange.

"It's given me different vision than I ever thought that I could have. I had no idea how colors were. I was obviously missing out.

The lenses cost between $350-600 and you can opt to use your own frame.

"I think that we don't even know yet how much this is going to help people. This is just the tip of the iceberg," Walling said.

Are you seeing all the colors? Here is an online test you can take.