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Understanding Color Blindness

Color blindness is a disorder affecting one's ability to see colors under normal lighting conditions or to discern colors as they are normally seen. Typically, the condition is present at birth, but it can also be caused by old age or a number of eye diseases.

The perception of color depends on cones found in the eye's macula. Humans are typically born with three kinds of pigmented cones, each of which perceives various wavelengths of color tone. When it comes to pigment, the size of the wave is directly connected to the resulting color. Long waves produce red tones, medium-length waves generate green tones and short waves produce blue tones. Which type of cone is missing determines the spectrum and seriousness of the color deficiency.

Because it is a sex-linked genetically recessive trait, red-green color deficiency is more frequent in males than in women. Still, there are a small number of females who do suffer some degree of color blindness, specifically yellow-blue color blindness.

Color vision problems are not a debilitating condition, but it can harm educational development and restrict options for careers. Not having the ability to distinguish colors as fellow students do can quickly hurt a student's self-confidence. Normal colour vision is important for some occupations; police officers, pilots, electricians and artists are some examples.

Eye doctors use a number of exams for color blindness. The most widely used is the Ishihara color test, named after its designer. In this test a patient views a plate with a group of dots in a circle in different colors and sizes. The individual's capability to make out the number inside the dots of contrasting tones examines the level of red-green color sight.

Even though hereditary color vision deficiencies can't be treated, there are some steps that can help to make up for it. For some, wearing colored contacts or anti-glare glasses can help people to perceive the distinction between colors. Increasingly, computer programs are becoming available for common computers and for smaller machines that can help people distinguish color better depending on their specific diagnosis. There is also exciting research underway in gene therapy to improve color vision.

How much color blindness limits a person is dependent upon the variant and degree of the deficiency. Some individuals can adapt to their condition by learning alternate clues for colored objects or signs. For example, one can familiarize oneself with the shape of stop signs in place of recognizing red, or contrast objects with paradigms like green plants or a blue body of water.

If you suspect that you or your loved one could be color blind it's important to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner you can help. Contact our Centreville, VA optometrists to schedule an exam.