Color blindness or color vision deficiency is the inability to perceive different colors or differences between certain colors. This is common with the red and green colors, and sometimes including blues. To further understand how this happens, learn about causes and symptoms, and color blindness diagnosis and treatment.
How can we perceive color?
Our retina houses two types of light-detecting cells.
- Rods. These detect only light and dark and are sensitive to low light
- Cones. Primarily detect color. These cones are further divided into three types depending on the color they detect: red, green, and blue.
The input from these cones is what our brains perceive as color.
The symptoms of color blindness is pretty straightforward. You don’t see colors the way most people do. You have trouble differentiating between some colors, you perceive some as brighter than others, and you also have a hard time with different shades.
But unless you already suspect that you’re suffering from color blindness, it’s really hard to notice the symptoms because oftentimes, they’re so mild, they’ll barely affect your daily activities.
If you have had the condition since birth, you have your own way of seeing colors, you won’t really care at all. However, there are serious cases where color blindness interferes with a person’s everyday functions. The sensitivity to light or even movement can be fatiguing to the eyes, thus, you’d want it to get looked at properly.
The following are the symptoms of color blindness that a person may suffer from:
Red-green color blindness
This is perhaps the most common type of color blindness, wherein it’s difficult to tell the difference between colors the aforementioned colors. Of this type of color blindness, there are 4 subtypes that you could be classified under:
- Deuteranomaly where greens look redder
- Protanomaly where reds look more green and are less bright,
- Protanopia and deuteranopia where you can’t really tell the difference between the two colors at all.
Blue-yellow color blindness
This type of color blindness is less common than the first one, and it affects how you perceive the difference between blue and green and between yellow and red.
This also has two types:
- Tritanomaly makes it difficult to tell between blue and green and between yellow and red
- Tritanopia wherein you’re unable to tell between blue and green, purple and red, and yellow and pink
Complete color blindness
This is the rarest type of color blindness that makes you unable to perceive colors at all. This is also called monochromacy, which can give you trouble seeing and may even make you more sensitive to light.
Causes of Color Blindness
There are several causes of color blindness:
Color blindness can be an inherited disorder and is more common in males than in females. If your family is known to suffer from a form of color blindness, there’s a chance that you’ve inherited the condition or are susceptible to having one form of the disorder.
Inherited color blindness usually affects both eyes, and the severity remains the same throughout your life. Again, you could inherit a mild, moderate, or severe degree of colorblindness, regardless of what your predecessors suffered.
You may not have color blindness running in your family, but you could develop it later in life when you suffer from an illness. Those who suffer from the following are more susceptible to developing colorblindness:
- Sickle cell anemia
- Macular degeneration
- Parkinson’s disease
This may or may not affect both eyes, and as the underlying illness is treated, your color blindness could also get better.
Drugs that treat autoimmune diseases, heart problems, erectile dysfunction, and psychological problems, among others, can alter your color vision in one or both eyes. Again, once you stop taking these medications, your color vision could also get better.
There are also some chemicals that can have the same effect, like carbon disulfide and fertilizers. If you work or handle these chemicals regularly, your color vision may deteriorate.
Growing old is inevitable, and along with it comes the deterioration of your ability to see colors clearly. Color perception and contrast slowly fade along with your eyesight and other senses.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to determine if you have color blindness, your ophthalmologist will conduct a simple test using different patterns of multicolored dots. This test is called the Ishihara screening test.
This uses colored patterns of dots to form numbers and shapes, which is easy to perceive if you don’t have any color deficiency. If you are color blind, however, you’ll have a hard time discerning the number or shape, or worse, you won’t see anything in the pattern at all.
It is important to consider that you can still function normally without knowing that you have color deficiency. Your visual acuity could be normal, the eye exam would be normal, and unless your line of work involves the colors you’re unable to recognize, you’ll be able live normally as you please. Color blindness is rarely serious, however, it may have some effect on your day-to-day life.
It may make it difficult for people with color blindness to see warning signs for driving, traffic lights, pedestrian crossing, fire and safety exits and the like, so it is still best to consult your doctor.
Hereditary color blindness doesn’t have any cure, so the only thing you can do is to adjust to it. If you are a parent suffering from some form of color blindness, you might consider getting your child tested early on so that they won’t have any difficulties at school. It’s also important to know if you have this condition before you embark on a career that deals with color accuracy and such.
Fortunately, tech advancements have made it possible to create tools to help color blind people tell the difference between colors. Nowadays, you can get special glasses and contact lenses to help you tell colors apart. You can use your mobile phone as a visual aid to identify colors. Simply take a picture using an app, then tap on the areas where you want to know the colors.
Color blindness may be uncommon, but there are those who still care to know the correct shades of color. There are ways that you can get diagnosed with the disorder, and while it remains incurable, there are modern tools that can help you cope with the situation.
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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.