Not a pretty picture: Z1 photosensitivity lenses disappear [updated]**Posted: 04/21/2011
In 1999 Italian researchers led by Giuseppe Capovilla published a study documenting their development of a special blue lens that showed great promise for protecting people sensitive to flashing light. The lens was manufactured for the researchers by the optics giant Zeiss and was given the name Z1. The Z1, which is a lovely shade of cobalt blue, blocks a great deal of the total incoming light. In addition it filters out the longer red wavelengths that are most likely to provoke seizures in those with photosensitivity. Ordinary polarized sunglasses, which some patients find helpful, don’t do this.
When wearing the Z1 lens, 77 percent of the photosensitive people in the study no longer showed any abnormalities on their EEG when exposed to flashing light. An additional 19 percent of study participants showed reductions in their abnormal EEG response. But it was a small study that involved only 83 participants.
When Capovilla and colleagues published a larger, follow-up study of 610 photosensitive individuals in 2006, they replicated these remarkable results. In the larger study, EEG abnormalities during exposure to flashing light disappeared in 463 (75.9%) of the participants, and the EEG abnormalities were considerably reduced in an additional 109 (17.9%). A mere 6.2 percent of the study participants experienced no change. Pretty impressive numbers. The authors concluded: “The Z1 lens is highly effective…in a very large number of photosensitive epilepsy patients irrespective of their epilepsy or antiepileptic drug treatment. The lens might become a valid resource in the daily activity of any clinician who cares for patients with epilepsy.”
The Z1 lens has the potential to change lives, allowing those with photosensitivity to participate in everyday activities without constant fear of visual seizure triggers. These lenses are an attractive alternative to anti-epileptic drugs, which have many unpleasant and potentially serious side effects and which in many cases are not effective for photosensitivity.
But these therapeutic lenses aren’t available in the US.** For a time it was possible to obtain prescription glasses made with Z1 lenses. Here in the US some opticians connected with Canadian suppliers who ordered the glasses from Germany. Now, due to corporate restructuring and distribution changes at Zeiss, the Z1 is unavailable here. It’s not clear whether the lenses are still available in Europe, where the follow-up study said they were commercially available. Meanwhile, Zeiss is selling “portable eyewear” to deliver 3D viewing for Playstations, iPods, iPads, and other video-delivery devices. What’s wrong with this picture?
My attempts to contact Zeiss about the Z1 have not been successful. Anyone out there have information on this that you can share with us here?
**3/28/12 Note: Thanks to responses from readers I have found several sources and my daughter has her new lenses! I recently posted quite a bit more about these lenses, including information on my daughter’s experiences with them and on how to order. Please see https://videogameseizures.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/life-with-zeiss-z1-f133-protective-lenses/
**5/15/12 Note: Now there is also a cobalt blue tint for lenses, developed as an alternative to the Zeiss lenses, that we have found equally effective. See https://videogameseizures.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/seizure-protection-in-a-bottle/