Color blindness can be frustrating for those with the condition, and it can also create challenges for some medical professionals while they’re doing their daily tasks. Veins, in particular, can be hard to spot by normal seeing people, and it’s even more difficult if your color perception is off. There are also issues like noticing how flush or pale someone is and assessing dermatological problems. We were sent a pair of Oxy-Iso Color Correction Glasses from a company called O2AMP that were developed to help color blind clinicians be better at doing things like starting IV lines.
Luckily for us, we have a colleague cardiologist with red-green color blindness (deuteranopia) who was willing to give these a try and let us know what he thinks. He tried the Oxy-Isos indoors and out, and compared what the skin on the face, arms, and palms looks like with and without the glasses.
What he discovered is that veins become very apparent, looking almost like they’re glowing. He described it as “fluorescing,” though the glasses don’t actively excite blood in any way, instead relying on filtering light in a precise way. This effect was even more pronounced outdoors in bright light, revealing vasculature that otherwise seems hidden. Clearly this would be useful for color blind phlebotomists and staff that start IVs.
At this point we were curious and had a person with normal vision try the glasses as well to see what findings we’d obtain, again looking at the skin on the arms, face, and palms. Well, to our surprise the results were about the same. The veins again looked a lot more apparent, almost popping out at you, if you’ll forgive the pun.
Things in the blue/green spectrum seemed darker and reds looked more orange, yet the same was reported by our color blind volunteer.
O2AMP does produce another model called Oxy-Amp Paramedic Vein Glasses that are made for normal seeing people that have to find veins quickly and reliably. According to the firm, the difference is that “Oxy-Iso amplifies visibility of oxygenation and veins in a ‘brute force’ fashion. We say it ‘isolates’ and amplifies perception of oxygenation, ‘isolates’ because it hinders perception of varations in the concentration of blood… The Oxy-Amp (Paramedic Vein tech), on the other hand, enhances visibility of oxygenation (and veins) via a very different mechanism: it blocks very narrow wavelength bands of light that are noise, or counter-signal, for oxygenation. Because the bands are so narrow, one gets an enhanced O2 signal”
So while the Oxy-Iso will help both normal and color blind people spot vasculature with greater ease, the Oxy-Amp glasses only work for normal seeing folks. Yet, the Oxy-Iso glasses do have downsides for those with correct color vision, in that while veins are easier to spot, other colors can look significantly off.
Our conclusion is that it seems like these kinds of glasses should be more common among phlebotomists, for example, as they are an easy way to see veins whether you do or do not have color blindness. This effect is surprisingly pronounced and unexpected, particularly how well it works for both color blind and normal seeing people. Of course our little experiment was not exactly scientific, and there are many types of color blindness out there for which these glasses will not work. Yet, if you find yourself looking for veins on a regular basis, trying out a pair from O2AMP may certainly be worth your while. Moreover, since they naturally work as eye protectors they can replace existing safety glasses you may be using while giving you a bit of super vision.