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Color Blindness: An In-depth Look

The inability to perceive colors or color blindness is typically a hereditary condition which prohibits one's ability to differentiate between colors. Color blindness is caused by a dysfunction of the cones in the eye's retina. Generally, it prevents a viewer's capability to distinguish between variants of red or green, but it can impact the ability to see additional hues too.

Color perception is dependent upon cones found in the eye's macula. People are commonly born with three types of cones, each perceiving various wavelengths of color. This is similar to wavelengths of sound. With pigment, the size of the wave is directly related to the resulting color. Long waves produce red tones, moderately-sized waves are seen as green tones and short waves produce blues. The type of cone that is affected has an impact on the nature and seriousness of the color deficiency.

Being a sex-linked genetically recessive trait, many more men are red-green color blind than women. Nevertheless, there are a small number of females who do suffer varying degrees of color blindness, particularly blue-yellow deficiencies.

Color vision deficiencies are not a devastating condition, but it can harm educational growth and limit career choice. Not having the ability to distinguish colors as peers do can negatively impact a student's self-esteem. For individuals in the workplace, color blindness could present a disadvantage when running against normal-sighted colleagues trying to advance in the same field, such as police officers, artists or electricians.

Eye doctors use a few evaluation methods to diagnose the condition. The most common is the Ishihara color test, called after its designer. In this test, a plate is shown with a circle of dots in different sizes and colors. Within the circle appears a number in a particular tint. The patient's capability to make out the number inside the dots of contrasting hues indicates the level of red-green color blindness.

Even though genetic color blindness can't be treated, there are some options that might improve the situation. For some, wearing colored contacts or anti-glare glasses can help them perceive the distinction between colors. Increasingly, computer programs are being developed for regular personal computers and even for smaller devices that can help people differentiate color better depending upon their specific diagnosis. There is also interesting research being conducted in gene therapy to improve color vision.

How much color vision problems limit a person is dependent upon the kind and severity of the condition. Some individuals can adapt to their deficiency by learning alternate cues for determining a color scheme. For instance, one might familiarize oneself with the shapes of traffic signs rather than recognize red or contrast objects with paradigms like a blue body of water or green grass.

If you notice signs that you or your loved one could be color blind it's advised to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner you can help. Contact our Austin, TX eye doctors to schedule an exam.