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How We Perceive Color: What is Color Blindness?

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The inability to perceive colors or color blindness is a commonly genetic disability which impairs the ability to differentiate between shades of color. Color blindness is a result of damage to the cones in the retina, typically hurting an individual's ability to differentiate variants of red or green, but might adversely affect the ability to see additional hues too.

Color perception depends on the cones found in the eye's macula.} People are usually born with three types of pigmented cones, all of which perceive differing wavelengths of color tone. When it comes to colors, the length of the wave is directly linked to the perceived color tone. Short waves produce blues, medium-length waves produce greens and longer waves generate reds. The type of cone that is affected determines the nature and level of the color deficiency.

Being a sex-linked genetically recessive trait, green-red color blindness is more common in men than in females. Still, there are plenty of women who do experience some degree of color vision deficiency, specifically blue-yellow color blindness.

Color blindness is not a devastating disability, but can damage educational growth and restrict options for careers. Lacking the ability to distinguish colors as peers do could quickly harm a student's self-image. For working people, color blindness could present a disadvantage when running against normal-sighted peers trying to advance in the same industry.

Optometrists use several evaluation methods for the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color exam, called after its designer. For this test a patient views a plate with a circle of dots in seemingly random sizes and colors. Inside the circle one with proper color vision can see a number in a particular shade. The patient's capability to see the digit inside the dots of contrasting shades indicates the level of red-green color sight.

Even though inherited color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are some steps that can help to make up for it. Some evidence shows that using colored contacts or anti-glare glasses can help people to perceive the differences between colors. More and more, computer programs are being developed for standard personal computers and even for smaller machines that can assist users to enhance color distinction depending on their specific diagnosis. There is also exciting research underway in gene therapy to improve color vision.

How much color vision problems limit a person is dependant upon the kind and severity of the deficiency. Some patients can adapt to their condition by familiarizing themselves with alternate cues for colored objects or signs. For example, learning the order of traffic signals or comparing items with reference objects like the blue sky or green plants.

If you notice signs that you or a child might be color blind it's advised to get tested by an eye doctor. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the sooner you can help. Feel free to call our Troy, AL optometry practice to schedule an exam.