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All About Color Blindness


Color blindness is a commonly hereditary condition which prohibits the ability to differentiate between shades of color. Color blindness is caused by a deficiency in the cones in the retina, commonly damaging an individual's ability to distinguish between varieties of red or green, but possibly impacting the perception of additional colors too.


Color perception is dependent upon the cones located in the eye. Humans are generally born with three types of cones, each of which perceive different wavelengths of color tone. With colors, the length of the wave is directly linked to the perceived color tone. Short waves project blue tones, middle-sized waves produce greens and long waves produce red tones. Which type of cone is missing has an impact on the spectrum and level of the color blindness.


Because it is a gender-linked recessive trait, red-green color deficiency is more frequent in males than in females. Still, there are plenty of females who do experience some degree of color blindness, particularly yellow-blue color blindness.


Some people develop color vision deficiencies later on resulting from another condition such as macular degeneration, aging and injuries. However, with these situations, treatment of the condition may be able to restore color vision.


Eye doctors use numerous tests for the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color test, named after its inventor. For this test a plate is shown with a group of dots in a circle in differing colors and sizes. Within the circle appears a digit in a particular tint. The patient's capability to see the digit within the dots of clashing shades indicates the level of red-green color sight.


Although hereditary color blindness can't be treated, there are a few options that can help to make up for it. For some, wearing colored contacts or glasses which minimize glare can help people to see the distinction between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are becoming available for regular PCs and even for mobile machines that can help users enhance color distinction depending on their specific diagnosis. There are also promising experiments being conducted in gene therapy to improve color vision.


How much color blindness limits an individual is dependent upon the type and degree of the deficiency. Some individuals can adapt to their deficiency by learning alternative cues for colored objects or signs. For instance, familiarizing oneself with the shapes of traffic signs (in place of recognizing red) or contrasting items with paradigms like green plants or a blue body of water can help.


If you notice signs that you or a child might have a color vision deficiency it's important to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The sooner the condition is diagnosed, the easier it will be to manage. Contact our Duluth, MN eye doctors for additional details about color blindness.