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Understanding Color Blindness

Color blindness is a generally innate disability that impairs someone's ability to differentiate between colors. Color blindness is caused by a dysfunction of the cones in the eye's macular area, typically affecting a person's capability to distinguish between shades of green or red, but sometimes adversely affecting the perception of additional shades also.

Color perception depends on cones located in the eye. Humans are generally born with three kinds of pigmented cones, all of which perceive differing wavelengths of color. This is similar to wavelengths of sound. When it comes to colors, the length of the wave is directly associated with the resulting color. Short waves produce blue tones, medium-length waves produce greens and longer waves produce reds. Which pigmented cone is affected determines the spectrum and severity of the color deficiency.

Green-red color blindness is more common in men than in women since the genetic code is sex-linked.

Color vision problems are not a devastating condition, but can harm educational progress and limit options for professions. Being unable to distinguish colors as fellow students do can immediately hurt a student's self-image. For anyone in the workplace, color blindness could become a disadvantage when competing against normal-sighted peers trying to advance in the same industry.

There are a few exams for the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color exam, named after its designer. For this test a plate is shown with a group of dots in a circle in different sizes and colors. Inside the circle appears a digit in a particular tint. The individual's capability to see the digit within the dots of contrasting hues examines the level of red-green color vision.

Although genetic color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are a few options that can help to make up for it. For some wearing colored lenses or anti-glare glasses can help to see the differences between colors. Increasingly, new computer applications are on the market for common PCs and even for smaller machines that can help users differentiate color better depending on their particular condition. There are also exciting experiments underway in gene therapy to improve the ability to perceive colors.

How much color blindness limits an individual depends on the type and degree of the deficiency. Some individuals can adapt to their condition by familiarizing themselves with substitute cues for colored objects or signs. For example, they can familiarize themselves with the shapes of traffic signs rather than recognizing red or compare objects with reference objects like the blue sky or green grass.

If you suspect that you or your child could be color blind it's recommended to see an optometrist. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to adapt to. Contact our Old Bridge, NJ optometrists for further information about color blindness.