Everything You Need to Know About Color Blindness

April 14th, 2020
color blindness

While largely an inherited condition, color blindness can also be caused by certain illnesses or injuries. 

Despite the name, color blindness isn’t actually a form of blindness at all. The more accurate term is color vision deficiency, which simply means that your eyes have difficulty distinguishing between different colors. 

The human eye has rod and cone cells in the retina that allow us to perceive color and light. The average healthy human eye has three types of cone cells. These three types of cells are responsible for the eye’s ability to perceive hundreds of thousands of different color combinations. If your cone cells are not functioning normally, it can impact color perception.

Color blindness is a largely inherited condition that is estimated to affect around 8 percent of men and less than 1 percent of women worldwide. Color blindness is a recessive trait located on the X chromosome. As a result, the condition is more likely to impact men. However, color blindness can also be caused by serious health issues. Here’s a quick introduction to the condition. 

Types of Color Blindness

There are several different forms of color blindness. The most common type is red-green color blindness when cone cell deficiencies impact the eye’s ability to perceive red-green color combinations. Eyes that have missing or defective long-wave cones will have a reduced sensitivity to red light. Eyes with defective medium-wave cones will be less sensitive to green light. Red-green colorblindness makes it harder to distinguish between shades of red, green, and orange, while causing blue and yellow color combinations to pop.

Blue-yellow color blindness is far less common than red-green color blindness, and is caused by deficiencies in the short-wave cone cells. Individuals impacted by blue-yellow color blindness have difficulty distinguishing between blue and green shades and some yellow and violet shades. It’s possible for some patients to experience defects in all three types of cone cells. Individuals who have total color blindness can only see in shades of gray. But this condition is extremely rare. 

Most cases of color blindness are congenital, but it is possible to develop color blindness later in life. Color blindness can be caused by degenerative diseases and trauma that causes damage to the retina or the optic nerve. Some conditions associated with a diminished capacity to perceive color include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Drug use
  • Glaucoma
  • Leukemia
  • Macular degeneration
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Vascular disease

Diagnosing and Treating Color Blindness

If you suspect you might be color blind, you can find out for sure by requesting a quick test from an ophthalmologist. During the test you’ll be shown a pattern of multicolored dots that contains a number within it. If you have color blindness, it will have difficulty discerning the number or shape within the dotted pattern. 

Unless your color vision deficiency is caused by a degenerative condition, color blindness does not require treatment. But if you are concerned, there are special contact lenses and glasses that use light-filtering technology to enhance the visibility of specific colors.

If you think you might have color blindness — especially if it has developed later in life or if you have one of the conditions listed above — contact us today to schedule an appointment at our Mesa and Chandler locations. At Swagel Wootton, our team of experienced ophthalmologists will help you identify the source of the problem and connect you with the treatment you need.