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Color Blindness: An Overview

Color blindness is a condition affecting the capability to see colors under normal light or to perceive colors as they are seen by normal people. Typically, the disorder is present at birth, but it can also be caused by accidents or a variety of eye diseases.

The perception of different hues depends on cones found within the retina of the eye. Humans are typically born with three varieties of cones, each of which perceives different wavelengths of color. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. When it comes to colors, the length of the wave is directly linked to the resulting color. Long waves produce reds, middle-sized waves produce green tones and shorter waves are perceived as blues. The type of cone that is affected determines the nature and level of the color blindness.

Since it is a sex-linked recessive trait, many more men are green-red color blind than 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 debilitating disability, but it can impair educational progress and work performance. The inability to distinguish colors as friends do can hurt a student's self-confidence. For working people, color blindness could become a drawback when running against peers trying to advance in certain fields.

Optometrists use several tests for the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color test, called after its designer. In 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 shade. The individual's ability to see the digit inside the dots of clashing shades determines the level of red-green color blindness.

Even though genetic color blindness can't be corrected, there are a few measures that might improve the situation. Some evidence shows that wearing tinted lenses or anti-glare glasses can help people to see the distinction between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are being developed for regular personal computers and even for smaller devices that can help people enhance color distinction depending on their specific diagnosis. There are also promising experiments underway in gene therapy to improve the ability to distinguish colors.

The extent to which color vision problems limit an individual depends on the kind and severity of the condition. Some patients can accommodate to their deficiency by learning alternate clues for colored objects or signs. For instance, many individuals are capable of learning the order of traffic signals or comparing items with reference objects like green trees or the blue sky.

If you suspect that you or your family member might be color blind it's advised to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner you can help. Feel free to call our Blacksburg, VA optometrists to schedule an exam.