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Home » What's New » All About Color Blindness

All About Color Blindness


Color blindness is commonly a genetic condition which impairs someone's ability to distinguish among color tones. Color blindness is caused by a dysfunction of the cones in the retina. Typically, it affects an individual's capability to differentiate variants of green or red, but it can impact the perception of additional colors also.


The perception of different hues is dependent upon cones found in the eye's macula. Humans are generally born with three kinds of pigmented cones, each of which perceives different wavelengths of color tone. This is comparable to wavelengths of sound. With shades of color, the length of the wave is directly connected to the resulting color. Short waves produce blues, middle-sized waves produce green tones and longer waves produce red tones. The pigmented cone that is missing determines the nature and severity of the color deficiency.


Green-red color vision deficiencies are more common among males than among females since the genetic code is linked to gender.


Color vision deficiencies are not a devastating condition, but it can impair learning and development and limit choices of jobs. Not having the ability to distinguish colors as friends do could quickly harm a student's confidence. For working people, color blindness could become a disadvantage when running against normal-sighted colleagues trying to advance in the same field.


There are several exams for the condition. The most common is the Ishihara color test, named after its designer. In this test a patient views a plate with a circle of dots in different colors and sizes. Inside the circle one with proper color vision can see a numerical figure in a particular tint. The individual's capability to make out the number within the dots of contrasting colors examines the level of red-green color vision.


Although hereditary color vision deficiencies can't be treated, there are a few measures that can assist to improve the situation. Some people find that using tinted lenses or glasses which block glare can help to see the distinction between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are being developed for common computers and for mobile devices that can help people distinguish color better depending upon their specific diagnosis. There is also interesting research underway in gene therapy to correct the ability to distinguish colors.


How much color blindness limits an individual is dependent upon the kind and severity of the condition. Some individuals can adapt to their condition by familiarizing themselves with alternate cues for colored objects or signs. For example, they can familiarize themselves with the shape of stop signs instead of recognizing red or contrast items with reference objects like green trees or the blue sky.


If you suspect that you or a family member might have a color vision deficiency it's important to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The sooner you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to manage. Feel free to call our Philadelphia, PA optometrists for information about scheduling an exam.