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Home » What's New » Living With Color Blindness

Living With Color Blindness

Color blindness is a disorder impacting the ability to distinguish colors with typical lighting conditions or to perceive colors as they are normally viewed. Typically, the condition is genetic, but it can also be caused by old age or a number of eye diseases.

Color perception depends on the cones found within the retina of the eye. Humans are commonly born with three varieties of cones, each of which perceive different wavelengths of color. With shades of color, the size of the wave is directly linked to the resulting color. Long waves generate red tones, moderately-sized waves produce green tones and short waves produce blues. Which pigmented cone is missing has an impact on the nature and severity of the color deficiency.

Green-red color blindness is more common among men than among women because the genetic coding is sex linked and recessive.

Some people obtain color blindness later on as a result of another condition including medicinal side effects, cataracts and especially macular degeneration. But, it might be possible to restore color vision once the cause is treated

Eye doctors use many tests for color blindness. The most widely used is the Ishihara color test, called after its inventor. For this test a plate is shown with a circle of dots in seemingly random colors and sizes. Inside the circle appears a digit in a particular shade. The patient's ability to see the number inside the dots of contrasting tones determines the level of red-green color blindness.

While inherited color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are a few steps that can assist to make up for it. Some evidence shows that using tinted lenses or glasses which block glare can help to perceive the differences between colors. Increasingly, new computer applications are becoming available for common personal computers and even for smaller devices that can help people distinguish color better depending upon their specific diagnosis. There is also exciting research being conducted in gene therapy to improve the ability to perceive colors.

The extent to which color blindness limits an individual is dependent upon the variant and degree of the deficiency. Some patients can adapt to their condition by familiarizing themselves with alternative cues for determining a color scheme. For instance, many learn the shapes of traffic signs instead of recognizing red, or contrast objects with reference objects like the blue sky or green trees.

If you notice signs that you or a family member could have a color vision deficiency it's recommended to get tested by an eye doctor. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the easier it will be to live with. Contact our Rye Brook, NY optometry practice for information about scheduling an exam.