Life with Zeiss Z1 F133 protective lenses

The Zeiss F133 lenses are a deep cobalt blue. They filter out a lot of light, and block out the color red, the most seizure-provoking color.

I promised to share information about my daughter’s experience with the blue Zeiss Z1 F133 lenses that I’ve written about previously. In the past we got prescription glasses made with these lenses. But her prescription has changed every year and that meant ordering them all over again. So this last time we got her a new pair, we went with clip-ons. Here’s what I can tell you:

They absolutely do prevent seizures while Alice watches TV! They also prevent the seizures that happen when she reads uninterrupted for very long periods. And they’re handy for unexpected events out in the community—emergency lights, flash photography, and flickering fluorescent bulbs.

  • Alice can feel that her eyes are under less stress as soon as she puts the glasses on. I guess it’s similar to feeling less uncomfortable when putting on regular sunglasses in bright sunlight.
  • No hard data, but we suspect that even with the lenses, there is still some effect on her brain that sneaks through. We can’t say for sure, but we have a hunch that she has more unprovoked seizures in the day or days after watching TV. So we currently limit TV to a couple of half-hour sessions per day.
  • I can’t report on the lenses’ effectiveness for preventing seizures from video games because we aren’t going there. Alice cannot be around video games, period, because she very quickly becomes intensely addicted. If left unsupervised with a computer, she will find a game site. If left alone to play video games with blue glasses on, she invariably removes the glasses when no one is around. There is something about that pre-seizure trance that her brain finds irresistible, even though her mind knows she’ll regret bringing on a seizure.
  • The world looks kind of eerie all in the dim blue light that gets through the lenses. You can’t really discern color very well except for yellow, blue, and green.
  • As expected, clip-ons are hard to keep track of when they’re not attached. (This is especially true for people with the attention and memory issues that often are associated with seizures).  I just ordered another pair!
  • If you get prescription glasses made from the Zeiss lenses, you’ll be switching off with your non-tinted regular prescription glasses–one pair on top of your head or hanging around your neck or at large and at risk of getting lost.

About the lenses

Z1 is the name of a filtering lens, made by Zeiss in Germany, that blocks out 80 percent of light. (I’ve previously said they are cross-polarized, which is incorrect.) These are the lenses used in the Capovilla studies. F133 refers to the particular shade of blue that was found in clinical tests to be most effective for photosensitive patients. Zeiss does the tinting. It’s a lens that was already commercially available in Italy, where the study was done. Researchers have looked at some other lenses as well, and I hope to learn more about those and pass along what I find out. Given how effective the Zeiss lenses are, though, there hasn’t been a lot of other investigation.

Like everything else having to do with seizures, what works for one person may not help another. Before investing in these you might want to just try polarized sunglasses to see how helpful those are. For some people that may be good enough protection.

How to obtain/order F133 lenses ***

In the past we were able to order them via Canada, but last year our optician said the Canadian supplier he was using couldn’t provide these lenses anymore. Through this blog I became aware of Antonio Bernabei, an optician in Rome who sells these. Contact him via email at info@otticabernabei.com. He responds quickly, and his email English is quite good. You can order these lenses from him in any of several ways:

If you don’t wear prescription glasses, order blank F133 lenses and pick out a pair of eyeglass frames from an optician who will fit them for you. The optician can cut and insert the non-prescription F133 lenses when they arrive.

Cost for blank F133 lenses (like the two round lenses above):

  • Plain lenses, for clip-ons: 99 Euros (as of this writing, approx. $130) plus shipping and insurance.
  • Fee to cut blank lenses to fit into (most) sunglasses frames that you send: 20 Euros (as of this writing, approx. $26).

If you wear prescription eyeglasses and want a pair of prescription glasses made with the Zeiss lenses:

Send Antonio your eye doctor’s prescription and a pair of frames. Antonio will make tinted prescription glasses for you. Wear them as needed as you would wear any prescription sunglasses.

OR

Send him your prescription and provide the designer name, color, and model number of a pair of frames you’ve chosen from your optician, and purchase the frames and lenses together from Antonio. He’ll send the assembled glasses, and this way you don’t need to ship him the frames first.

Cost:  Varies according to the prescription, whether you need bifocals, etc.

If you  want to wear the Zeiss lenses as a clip-on for your prescription glasses:

These clip-ons attach magnetically to your eyeglasses at the top. Tiny screws visible on the lower half of the frame allow standard shades to be replaced with the Zeiss lens.

Order blank F133 lenses that your local optician can insert into a clip-on frame that attaches magnetically or hooks on to to your prescription glasses. Note that because Z1 F133 lenses are 2mm thick, most clip-on sunglasses frames cannot accommodate them. Typical custom clip-ons that match your eyeglass frame are made with a thin plastic lens that can’t be replaced without breaking either the lens or the frame. Ask your optician about clip-ons that have a tiny screw that allows the Zeiss lens to be inserted. We ended up buying an EasyTwist frame for the prescription glasses, which comes with a matching magnetic clip-on like the dark green one shown above.

Cost: see costs for non-prescription, blank lenses above

Antonio Bernabei
Ottica Bernabei
Via Del Corso, 4
Rome
Italy
Phone:  +39 06.3610190
www.otticabernabei.it 
 
info@otticabernabei.com

Our optician replaced the standard green shade with the F133. The next time Alice needs new prescription lenses, we can still use the same clip-ons.

Please send in comments to share your experience! I’ve learned a lot from some of you (especially L.H.) who also have been tracking these down. Have you been able to order the lenses from an optician closer to where you live? How well do the lenses work?

Additional sources

There are 2 sources I’ve recently heard about in North America. I believe they both have contacts with Canadian Zeiss representatives. Both optometrists can order the lenses and mail them to you.

Richard L. Silver, O.D.
Professional VisionCare Associates
14607 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA 91403
Office: (818) 789-3311
Fax: (818) 789-1047

drsilver@provisioncare.com

Dr. Silver charges $400 for a pair of lenses, either blank or corrective. Thanks to L.L. for locating him and sharing contact information

Norm Johnson, manager
Optometrists’ Clinic Inc.
12318 Jasper Ave.
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T5N 3K5
Phone: 800-661-9976

njohnson@optometristsclinic.com

The clinic provides the lenses for $250 (March 2012 price). You can order them as uncut lenses or, with a prescription and frame (or frame information), make up a pair of prescription glasses. In December 2013 Larra H. reports that you can also order them in a fit-over, standalone frame that covers the field of view more thoroughly. Cost for the Zeiss lenses has apparently dropped, so the plain Zeiss lenses in a fit-over frame is now down to $165. 

*** May 5, 2012–After posting this, I found out about another way to get blue lenses that work just fine. You can work with your local optician and a blue tint they can use. See https://videogameseizures.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/seizure-protection-in-a-bottle/