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How We Perceive Color: What is Color Blindness?





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Color blindness is a generally innate condition which inhibits the ability to discern between color tones. Color blindness is caused by damage to the cones in the eye's macular area, typically preventing a person's ability to distinguish between variants of red or green, but possibly impacting the ability to see additional hues as well.

Color perception is dependent upon cones found in the eye's macula. Humans are generally born with three varieties of cones, each perceiving different wavelengths of color tone. The size of the wave is directly associated with the perceived color tone. Short waves are perceived as blue tones, middle-sized waves produce green tones and longer waves are seen as reds. Which pigmented cone is involved determines the spectrum and severity of the color deficiency.

Because it is a gender-linked genetically recessive trait, many more males are found to be red-green color blind than females. Still, there are a small number of women who do experience varying degrees of color blindness, particularly yellow-blue color blindness.

Color blindness is not a devastating disability, but it can impair educational progress and restrict options for jobs. The inability to distinguish colors as fellow students do can immediately and negatively impact a student's self-image. For working people, color blindness could be a disadvantage when running against peers trying to advance in the certain fields.

Eye doctors use several tests for color blindness. The most common is the Ishihara color test, called after its designer. For this test a patient views a plate with a group of dots in a circle in seemingly random sizes and colors. Inside the circle one with proper color vision can see a digit in a particular shade. The patient's capability to make out the digit inside the dots of contrasting hues reveals the level of red-green color blindness.

Although inherited color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are a few measures that can help to make up for it. Some evidence shows that using colored lenses or glasses which block glare can help to perceive the differences between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are being developed for common personal computers and for smaller machines that can help users enhance color distinction depending on their particular condition. There are also promising experiments being conducted in gene therapy to correct color vision.

How much color vision problems limit a person depends on the type and severity of the deficiency. Some patients can adapt to their deficiency by familiarizing themselves with substitute clues for colored objects or signs. For instance, some might familiarize themselves with the shape of stop signs rather than recognize the red color, or contrast items with color paradigms like a blue body of water or green plants.

If you suspect that you or your child could have a color vision deficiency it's advised to see an optometrist. The sooner you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to live with. Contact our Plymouth, MI optometrists to schedule an exam.