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A Differently Colored Life: Understanding Color Blindness

Color blindness is a disorder impacting one's ability to view colors with normal light or to perceive colors as they are typically viewed. Commonly, the disorder is inherited, but it can also be caused by old age or a variety of diseases of the eye.

The perception of different hues depends on the cones located in the eye. Humans are typically born with three types of cones, each of which perceives various wavelengths of color. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. With pigment, the length of the wave is directly connected to the resulting color. Short waves are perceived as blue tones, medium-length waves are perceived as green tones and longer waves are seen as red tones. Which pigmented cone is involved determines the spectrum and level of the color blindness.

Red-green color blindness is more common in men than in women because the genes are gender linked.

Color blindness is not a debilitating condition, but it can hinder learning and development and work performance. Missing the ability to distinguish colors as friends do can immediately devastate a student's confidence. For working people, color blindness could present a disadvantage when running against normal-sighted peers in certain fields.

There are a few examinations for color blindness. The most common is the Ishihara color exam, called after its designer. In this test, a plate is shown with a circle of dots in seemingly random sizes and colors. Within the circle appears a number in a particular color. The patient's ability to see the number within the dots of clashing tones reveals the level of red-green color sight.

Even though genetic color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are a few measures that can help to make up for it. For some, wearing colored contacts or glasses which block glare can help people to see the distinction between colors. Increasingly, new computer applications are on the market for common personal computers and for smaller machines that can help people enhance color distinction depending upon their specific diagnosis. There is also exciting research underway in gene therapy to improve color vision.

How much color vision problems limit an individual is dependent upon the kind and severity of the deficiency. Some patients can adapt to their condition by learning alternate clues for colored objects or signs. For example, many individuals are capable of learning the shapes of stop signs (rather than recognizing red) or contrasting items with color paradigms like a blue body of water or green trees.

If you notice signs that you or your loved one might be color blind it's recommended to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to manage. Contact our Boynton Beach, FL optometrists for additional information about color blindness.