color blindness

Color Blindness

So, what exactly is color blindness? It typically doesn’t mean that you can’t see any color at all, it just means that you see colors a little differently than non-colorblind individuals. It usually runs in families and has no cure, but there are special glasses and contacts that can help. 

Types of Color Blindness

There are a few different types of color blindness that cause problems seeing different colors.

Red-green color blindness: This is the most common type that makes it hard to tell the difference between red and green. There are actually 4 different types of red-green color blindness:

-Deuteranomaly: most common type that makes green look more red. This type is mild and doesn’t usually get in the way of normal activities. 

-Protanomaly: this form makes red look more green and less bright. This type is mild as well.

-Protanopia and deuteranopia: unable to tell the difference between red and green at all.

Blue-yellow color blindness: This type is less common and makes it hard to tell between blue and green and between yellow and red. There are 2 types of blue-yellow color blindness:

-Tritanomaly: makes it hard to tell between blue and green and between yellow and red.

-Tritanopia: makes you unable to tell the difference between blue and green, purple and red, and yellow and pink. It also makes colors look duller.  

Complete color blindness: this means you cannot see colors at all. It is also called monochromacy and is very uncommon. 

Symptoms of color blindness

The main symptom of color blindness is not seeing colors the way most people do. You may have trouble telling the difference between colors, distinguishing how bright colors are, and distinguishing different shades of colors. Symptoms can be so mild and we grow so used to how we see colors that many people who are color blind don’t know it. People who have severe color blindness might have other symptoms, too- like quick side-to-side eye movements called nystagmus or light sensitivity. 

Risks for color blindness

Men are much more commonly color blind than women. About 1 in 12 men are color blind. This is because the trait is x-linked recessive. You are more likely to have color blindness if you:

-Have a family history of color blindness

-If you have an eye disease like glaucoma or macular degeneration

-Have certain health problems, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis

-Take certain medications (like Plaquenil)

-Are Caucasian

  • What causes color blindness?

The most common kinds are genetic, but it can also happen from damage to the eye or brain. Color vision may also get worse as you get older due to cataracts. 

If it is genetic, it will not change over time. Color blindness is passed down from parents to children on groups of genes called chromosomes. X and Y chromosomes determine gender. Males have one X and one Y chromosome and females have two X chromosomes. The genes that make you red-green color blind are passed down on the X chromosome. It is more common in men because since men only have one X chromosome, if that chromosome has the gene for red-green color blindness, then they will have it. Females would have to have the green on both chromosomes in order to have it. Blue-yellow color blindness and complete color blindness are passed down on other chromosomes, so they affect males and females equally. 

How to find out if you are color blind

You eye doctor can perform a simple test to see if you are color blind. You will be shown circles filled with lots of different colored dots. Inside the circle there will be a shape made out of dots, like a number or letter. The shape will be easy to perceive if you don’t have color blindness but people who are color blind will have a hard time seeing it. 

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure but there are ways to adjust to being color blind. Children will need help with some classroom activities and adults may not be able to do certain jobs. 

If the color blindness is due to a health issue, your doctor should treat what is causing the problem. If it is a medication, your doctor might adjust how much you take or switch to a different medication. 

There are special contact lenses and glasses that may help people who are color blind tell the difference between colors. It won’t give people a true equivalent of natural color vision, it will just enhance the distinction between red and green.  The glasses are made with certain minerals that will absorb and filter out some of the wavelengths between red and green that could confuse the brain.

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