Color blindness is a disorder affecting one's ability to view colors through normal light or to perceive colors as they are viewed by typical people. Generally, the condition is genetic, but can also result from injuries or a number of diseases of the eye.
The perception of color depends on cones located in the eye's macula. Humans are usually born with three types of cones, all of which perceive differing wavelengths of color tone. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. With shades of color, the length of the wave is directly associated with the resulting color. Long waves produce reds, medium-length waves generate greens and shorter waves produce blue tones. The type of cone that is affected impacts the spectrum and seriousness of the color blindness.
Because it is a sex-linked recessive trait, green-red color blindness is more common in males than in women. Nevertheless, there are plenty of females who do experience some degree of color vision deficiency, specifically yellow-blue deficiencies.
Color blindness is not a debilitating disability, but can harm educational growth and work performance. Being unable to see colors as peers do can quickly harm a student's self-esteem. For working people, color blindness could become a disadvantage when running against normal-sighted peers in the same industry.
There are a number of tests for color blindness. The most widely used is the Ishihara color test, named after its designer. For this test a patient views a plate with a circle of dots in differing sizes and colors. Within the circle appears a numerical figure in a particular tint. The individual's ability to make out the number within the dots of contrasting colors indicates the level of red-green color vision.
While hereditary color vision deficiencies can't be treated, there are a few options that can help to make up for it. Some people find that using colored lenses or glasses which block glare can help to perceive the differences between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are being developed for regular PCs and for mobile devices that can assist people to differentiate color better depending on their particular condition. There are also exciting experiments underway in gene therapy to correct color vision.
The extent to which color blindness limits an individual is dependent upon the kind and severity of the deficiency. Some patients can accommodate to their deficiency by familiarizing themselves with alternate clues for colored objects or signs. For example, they can learn the order of traffic signals or compare objects with reference objects like the blue sky or green grass.
If you suspect that you or a loved one could be color blind it's advised to see an optometrist. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the easier it will be to live with. Feel free to call our Winston Salem, NC eye care practice for information about scheduling an exam.