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How We Perceive Color: Understanding Color Blindness

Color blindness is a condition impacting one's capability to see colors under typical lighting conditions or to perceive colors as they are typically seen. Usually, the condition is inherited, but it can also result from old age or a variety of eye diseases.

The discernment of color depends on the cones located within the retina of the eye. Humans are typically born with three varieties of cones, all of which perceive different wavelengths of color. With shades of color, the length of the wave is directly associated with the perceived color tone. Short waves produce blue tones, middle-sized waves project green tones and longer waves generate red tones. Which pigmented cone is missing has an impact on the spectrum and seriousness of the color deficiency.

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

Color blindness is not a debilitating disability, but can impair educational progress and work performance. Missing the ability to distinguish colors as peers do can quickly hurt a student's confidence. For anyone of working age, color blindness could present a drawback when competing against peers in a similar industry.

There are a few evaluation methods for color blindness. The most widely used is the Ishihara color test, named after its inventor. For this test a plate is shown with a circle of dots in seemingly random colors and sizes. Within the circle one with proper color vision can see a digit in a particular shade. The patient's ability to see the digit within the dots of contrasting tones indicates the level of red-green color sight.

Although hereditary color blindness can't be corrected, there are a few options that can help to improve the situation. Some evidence shows that wearing tinted lenses or glasses which block glare can help people to perceive the distinction between colors. More and more, computer applications are being developed for regular PCs and for mobile devices that can assist people to enhance color distinction depending upon their specific diagnosis. There is also interesting research underway in gene therapy to improve color vision.

The extent to which color vision problems limit a person is dependent upon the kind and degree of the condition. Some patients can adapt to their deficiency by familiarizing themselves with alternative cues for colored objects or signs. For example, they can learn the order of traffic signals or compare items with reference objects like the blue sky or green plants.

If you suspect that you or a child might be color blind it's advised to see an eye doctor. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner you can help. Contact our Lafayette, LA eye doctors to schedule an exam.