Color blindness, also sometimes known as color deficiency, is a condition characterized by the inability to see colors in a normal way. In most cases, people who are color blind find it difficult to tell between different shades of greens and reds. Most people are color blind from birth, but it is possible to develop the condition in later life. It usually affects both eyes equally too. Estimates suggest that around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are affected by color blindness.
In order to understand color blindness, you first need to understand how the brain interprets color. The retina contains two different types of cells that detect light. These are called rods and cones. Rods detect light and dark and are extremely sensitive to low light levels. Meanwhile, cone cells detect color and there are three types of cones that see red, green, and blue. The brain then uses input from these cone cells to determine our color perception.
Many people are surprised to learn that being color blind doesn’t mean that you can only see in black and white. That is a separate condition, called achromatopsia, and is uncommon. Instead, people who suffer from color deficiency simply find it hard to tell different shades of certain colors apart.
Most people who are color blind struggle to differentiate between red and green. A smaller number will have problems telling the difference between blue and yellow. Their color deficiency determines how they see or don’t see other colors. For example, a patient with red-green color deficiency might mix up blue and purple pens because they are unable to see the red element that turns blue into purple.
How severely you experience these can vary significantly, and some people's symptoms are so mild that they don’t even realize that they are affected. However, if you suspect that you may be suffering from color deficiency, it’s important that you make an appointment with your eye doctor to obtain a diagnosis.
There are two main tests that are used to diagnose color blindness. These are:
The Ishihara Test. During this test, you will be asked to identify numbers that are contained within images made up of different dots. It is hard for someone who suffers from color blindness to differentiate the number figure from the background.
Color Arrangement Test. During this test, you will be asked to arrange colored objects in order of their different shades. Again, if someone is color blind, it can be difficult for them to do this correctly.
There is no ‘cure’ for being color blind, but you can manage your condition in such a way that it improves your day-to-day life. This mostly means making adaptations to things that you do every day. For example, you may want to use numbering rather than color-coding of labels, installing good quality lighting into your home to help you distinguish colors more easily, and trying specially tinted lenses to help you tell colors apart. If you use digital devices, you may find that there are settings that you can change that will make them easier for you to use too.
For more information about color blindness, or to schedule an appointment, please contact our eye care team today by calling (850) 972-1600.