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Home » What's New » Living in Black and White: What is Color Blindness?

Living in Black and White: What is Color Blindness?

Color blindness is a condition impacting the ability to see colors with normal lighting conditions or to discern colors as they are viewed by normal people. Commonly, the condition is present at birth, but it can also result from injuries or a number of diseases of the eye.

The perception of color depends on the cones found in the eye's macula. People are generally born with three types of cones, each perceiving various wavelengths of color. With pigment, the length of the wave is directly connected to the resulting color. Short waves are perceived as blues, middle-sized waves produce greens and long waves produce reds. Which type of cone is involved impacts the spectrum and seriousness of the color deficiency.

Since it is a sex-linked recessive trait, green-red color deficiency is more frequent in men than in women. Still, there are a small number of females who do experience some degree of color blindness, particularly yellow-blue deficiencies.

Some individuals develop color vision deficiencies later on resulting from another condition including macular degeneration, aging and medicinal side effects. Fortunately, with these situations, treatment of the condition could be able to improve color vision.

There are a few exams for the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color exam, named after its designer. In this test, a patient views a plate with a group of dots in a circle in seemingly random colors and sizes. Inside the circle one with proper color vision can see a number in a particular color. The individual's ability to make out the number inside the dots of clashing colors reveals the level of red-green color blindness.

Although inherited color vision deficiencies can't be treated, there are some options that might improve the situation. For some, using tinted lenses or anti-glare glasses can help people to see the differences between colors. More and more, computer applications are on the market for common personal computers and for smaller devices that can assist users to enhance color distinction depending on their particular condition. There is also exciting research being conducted in gene therapy to enhance color vision.

How much color vision problems limit an individual is dependent upon the type and severity of the condition. Some patients can accommodate to their condition by familiarizing themselves with alternate clues for determining a color scheme. For example, many people can learn the order of traffic signals or contrast items with color paradigms like green trees or the blue sky.

If you notice signs that you or your family member might have a color vision deficiency it's recommended to get tested by an optometrist. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the sooner you can help. Contact our Richmond, KY optometrists for additional details about color blindness.