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Color Blindness: An Overview

Color blindness is a condition impacting one's capability to see colors under normal lighting conditions or to discern colors as they are viewed by most people. Typically, the disorder is present at birth, but it can also be a result of old age or a number of eye diseases.

The way we perceive colors depends on the cones found in the eye. People are commonly born with three types of pigmented cones, each of which perceives various wavelengths of color. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. When it comes to shades of color, the length of the wave is directly related to the resulting color. Short waves produce blues, medium-length waves are perceived as green tones and longer waves produce red tones. Which type of cone is involved determines the spectrum and level of the color deficiency.

Being a gender-linked genetically recessive trait, red-green color blindness is more common in males than in women. Still, there are a small number of females who do suffer 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. Missing the ability to see colors as friends do could harm a student's self-confidence. For those of working age, color blindness could be a disadvantage when competing against peers trying to advance in certain fields.

Eye doctors use a number of tests for the condition. The most common is the Ishihara color test, called after its inventor. For this test a patient views a plate with a group of dots in a circle in various sizes and colors. Within the circle one with proper color vision can see a numerical figure in a particular tint. The patient's ability to make out the digit within the dots of clashing colors reveals the level of red-green color blindness.

Although hereditary color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are some options that can assist to make up for it. Some people find that wearing colored contacts or glasses which minimize glare can help to perceive the distinction between colors. More and more, new computer programs are becoming available for regular computers and for smaller devices that can help users differentiate color better depending upon their particular condition. There is also exciting research underway in gene therapy to improve the ability to perceive colors.

How much color blindness limits a person is dependent upon the variant and severity of the condition. Some individuals can accommodate to their condition by familiarizing themselves with substitute cues for colored objects or signs. For instance, one can try familiarizing oneself with the shapes of traffic signs (instead of recognizing red) or comparing items with reference objects like green plants or the blue sky.

If you notice signs that you or your loved one could be color blind it's important to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to manage. Feel free to call our Glastonbury, CT eye doctors to schedule an exam.