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How We Perceive Color: Understanding Color Blindness

Color blindness is a generally innate disability that inhibits the ability to differentiate among color tones. Color blindness is a result of a dysfunction of the cones in the macular area. Commonly it affects a person's capability to differentiate shades of red or green, but it can impact the perception of additional colors also.

Color perception depends on the cones found in the eye's macula. People are normally born with three kinds of pigmented cones, each perceiving various wavelengths of color tone. With colors, the length of the wave is directly connected to the perceived color tone. Short waves produce blues, middle-sized waves produce green tones and longer waves produce red tones. Which type of cone is affected impacts the spectrum and severity of the color blindness.

Green-red color blindness is more frequent in males than in females because the genes are gender linked and recessive.

Some people develop color blindness later on resulting from another condition such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. But, it might be possible to reverse the condition if the underlying cause is corrected.

Eye doctors use a few tests for the condition. The most common 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 different sizes and colors. Within the circle appears a digit in a particular color. The patient's ability to make out the number inside the dots of contrasting hues reveals the level of red-green color vision.

Even though genetic color blindness can't be treated, there are some steps that can assist to improve the situation. Some people find that wearing tinted lenses or glasses which minimize glare can help people to see the differences between colors. Increasingly, new computer applications are being developed for common computers and for mobile machines that can assist users to differentiate color better depending on their particular condition. There are also promising experiments being conducted in gene therapy to correct color vision.

How much color blindness limits a person is dependent upon the variant and degree of the condition. Some patients can accommodate to their deficiency by learning alternate clues for determining a color scheme. For example, many individuals are capable of learning the shapes of stop signs (rather than recognizing red) or contrasting items with reference objects like green trees or a blue body of water.

If you suspect that you or a family member could have a color vision deficiency it's advised to see an optometrist. The sooner the condition is diagnosed, the easier it will be to manage. Feel free to call our Potomac, MD eye doctors to schedule an exam.


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