What You Need to Know About Color Blindness

April 7th, 2020

Understanding the different forms of color blindness and their cause can help you cope with the condition. 

Color blindness is a common disorder, but one that is surprisingly misunderstood. For starters, color blindness isn’t a form of blindness — it’s a condition that impacts how you see color. Individuals with colorblindness perceive certain colors differently from their peers. Understanding what causes the condition can help individuals with colorblindness navigate different environments and improve their overall eye health. 

What Is Color Blindness

We depend on the cone cells in our retina to see color. Everyone has three types of cone cells, and each type is sensitive to light within a specific wavelength range. These ranges correspond to the colors red, green, and blue. When light enters your eye, it stimulates the cone cells, sending signals to the brain and enabling you to see color. 

If your cones are functioning normally, you should be able to perceive millions of colors. However, if one or more of the three types of cones is damaged or ineffective, your brain will not receive the normal range of signals, making it difficult to distinguish between colors. Types of colorblindness vary, but around 8% of men and 0.5% of women worldwide experience some degree of color blindness.

Types of Color Blindness

There are three types of commonly-found color blindness: 

Red-green color blindness occurs when defects exist in your red and green cones. It is the most common form of color blindness. Red-green color blindness can be divided into two types: deuteranomaly, when photopigments in the green cone are not functioning normally, and protanomaly, when the red cone is impacted. Protanomaly is significantly rarer than deuteranomaly. It is typically milder and less likely to impact daily life. 

Blue-yellow color blindness is the second most common form of color blindness. It occurs when the blue cone photopigments are ineffective or missing entirely. Unlike red-green color blindness, blue-yellow blindness affects women and men equally. 

Complete color blindness, or monochromacy, is the only form in which affected individuals have trouble seeing all colors. In cone monochromacy, two out of three cone cells contain defective photopigments, making it difficult to tell colors apart. In rod monochromacy, also called achromatopsia, none of your cone cells have functioning photopigments. This is the most severe form of color blindness and can make the world appear black, gray, and white. 

Causes of Color Blindness

Color blindness is usually caused by genetics. The genes that cause faulty red and green photopigments are recessive, and typically carried by the X chromosome. This is why color blindness impacts more men than women. Fortunately, genetic color blindness does not change or worsen as you age. 

While genetic factors are the main cause of color blindness, it is possible to develop color blindness later in life. Conditions such as vascular and neurological diseases, trauma, toxic effects from medications, and cataracts can impact your vision and reduce your ability to distinguish color.  

Treatments for Color Blindness 

If your color blindness is caused by medication or a degenerative condition like cataracts, there are treatment options available to you. Your eye specialist can work with you to determine the underlying cause and explore possible treatment options.

If your color blindness is genetic, you should have no problems leading a normal life. While there are corrective lenses that enhance color perception, the best way to thrive in a color-oriented world is to find coping strategies.

If you have difficulty distinguishing colors, don’t hesitate to contact a doctor for additional testing and guidance. The experienced specialists at  ICON Eye Care will help you understand and navigate your condition.

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