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Color Blindness: An Overview

Color blindness is a typically hereditary condition that impairs the ability to differentiate between color tones. Color blindness is caused by damage to the cones in the eye's macular area, typically affecting an individual's power to distinguish between shades of red or green, but may adversely affect the ability to see other shades too.

Color perception is dependent upon cones found in the eye's macula. People are commonly born with three kinds of cones, each of which perceive differing wavelengths of color. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. With pigment, the length of the wave is directly associated with the resulting color. Long waves generate red tones, middle-sized waves generate greens and short waves project blue tones. Which pigmented cone is affected has an impact on the nature and severity of the color blindness.

Green-red color blindness is more common among males than in females because the genes are linked to gender.

There are many cases where people acquire color blindness later on resulting from another condition including macular degeneration, aging and injuries. Fortunately, if one of these situations were to cause color blindness, it may be possible to reverse the color deficiency when the condition is treated.

There are several examinations for color blindness. The most widely used is the Ishihara color exam, named after its designer. In this test a plate is shown with a group of dots in a circle in differing colors and sizes. Within the circle appears a numerical figure in a particular color. The patient's ability to see the number inside the dots of contrasting colors indicates the level of red-green color blindness.

The extent to which color blindness limits a person is dependent upon the kind and severity of the condition. Some individuals can adapt to their deficiency by familiarizing themselves with substitute cues for colored objects or signs. For example, most are able to learn the shape of stop signs instead of recognizing red, or compare items with paradigms like green grass or the blue sky.

If you notice signs that you or a child could have a color vision deficiency it's recommended to get tested by an optometrist. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to manage. Feel free to call our Fayetteville, NC eye doctors for information about scheduling an exam.