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A Differently Colored Life: A Look at Color Blindness

Color blindness is a condition affecting the ability to see colors under normal light or to discern colors as they are viewed by normal individuals. Usually, the condition is present at birth, but it can also be a result of old age or a number of eye diseases.

The discernment of color is dependent upon cones located within the retina of the eye. People are typically born with three types of pigmented cones, each perceiving differing wavelengths of color. When it comes to shades of color, the length of the wave is directly connected to the perceived color tone. Short waves produce blues, medium-length waves produce green tones and long waves produce reds. Which pigmented cone is affected determines the nature and level of the color deficiency.

Being a gender-linked genetically recessive trait, red-green color deficiency is more frequent in men than in females. Nevertheless, there are a number of females who do suffer some degree of color blindness, specifically yellow-blue color blindness.

Color vision deficiencies are not a debilitating condition, but it can hinder educational progress and restrict options for jobs. Lacking the ability to distinguish colors as friends do can severely harm a student's self-image. For working people, color blindness could become a disadvantage when running against colleagues in the same field.

Optometrists use numerous evaluation methods for the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color exam, called after its designer. For this test a plate is shown with a circle of dots in different sizes and colors. Inside the circle appears a number in a particular color. The individual's capability to see the number inside the dots of clashing tones indicates the level of red-green color sight.

Even though genetic color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are a few measures that can help to improve the situation. For some, using colored contacts or glasses which minimize glare can help to perceive the distinction between colors. Increasingly, computer applications are becoming available for common PCs and for mobile devices that can help people distinguish color better depending on their specific diagnosis. There is also promising research underway in gene therapy to enhance color vision.

The extent to which color blindness limits a person is dependent upon the type and degree of the condition. Some patients can adapt to their condition by learning alternate cues for determining a color scheme. For example, many people learn the order of traffic lights or contrast items with reference objects like the blue sky or green trees.

If you suspect that you or your child might have a color vision deficiency it's advised to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the easier it will be to manage. Contact our Virginia Beach, VA eye doctors for information about scheduling an exam.