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Home » What's New » Color Blindness: An In-depth Look

Color Blindness: An In-depth Look


The inability to perceive colors or color blindness is commonly a hereditary disability that impairs the ability to distinguish between colors. Color blindness is a result of a deficiency in the cones in the eye's macular area, generally diminishing a person's capability to distinguish between shades of red or green, but possibly impacting the perception of additional colors also.


The perception of different hues is dependent upon cones located in the eye's macula. People are typically born with three types of pigmented cones, each perceiving different wavelengths of color tone. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. With shades of color, the length of the wave is directly related to the perceived color tone. Long waves are seen as reds, moderately-sized waves are seen as green tones and shorter waves are perceived as blue tones. The pigmented cone that is affected determines the spectrum and level of the color deficiency.


Because it is a sex-linked genetically recessive trait, many more males are red-green color blind than females. Nevertheless, there are a number of females who do experience varying degrees of color blindness, specifically yellow-blue color blindness.


Color blindness is not a devastating disability, but it can impair educational development and work performance. The inability to distinguish colors as peers do could permanently and negatively impact a student's self-image. For working people, color blindness could become a drawback when competing against normal-sighted peers trying to advance in the same field.


There are many tests for color blindness. The most widely used is the Ishihara color exam, called after its inventor. In this test, a plate is shown with a group of dots in a circle in different sizes and colors. Within the circle one with proper color vision can see a digit in a particular shade. The individual's ability to see the number within the dots of contrasting hues indicates the level of red-green color blindness.


While genetic color blindness can't be treated, there are a few options that can help to make up for it. For some, wearing tinted contacts or anti-glare glasses can help to see the distinction between colors. Increasingly, computer applications are becoming available for regular personal computers and even for smaller machines that can assist users to enhance color distinction depending upon their particular condition. There are also exciting experiments being conducted in gene therapy to enhance color vision.


How much color blindness limits a person depends on the variant and degree of the condition. Some individuals can adapt to their deficiency by learning substitute cues for colored objects or signs. For instance, one can try familiarizing oneself with the shapes of stop signs (in place of recognizing red) or comparing items with reference objects like green plants or the blue sky.


If you suspect that you or a child could be color blind it's important to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner you can help. Feel free to call our Plano, TX optometrists for information about scheduling an exam.