Color blindness - A less colorful world

  • By Dr. T Deepa Porkodi

Color blindness, in the true sense of the word, is very rare. Color blindness is a condition where a person is not able to detect any colors other than black and white.

Poor color vision, on the other hand, is a comparatively common and appropriately named condition. In this case, a person is unable to detect well a few basic colors like blue, green, yellow, and red.

The human eye has a part called as the retina which is responsible for vision. The central part of the retina is made up of several cone cells, together called as the macula. The cone cells are of three types and each one is responsible for the detection of blue, green, and red lights.

Color blindness happens when you don’t have any of these cone cells or if they don’t work right.

Color blindness or poor color vision is usually inherited. Besides this, certain conditions can cause color vision problems too. They include-

  1. Injury to the eye
  2. Diabetic Retinopathy
  3. Glaucoma
  4. Macular degeneration
  5. Cataract
  6. Certain medicines

The symptoms of color blindness may vary from person to person depending on the cells affected.

  1. One may be unable to detect red and green shades but has no problem with yellow and blue colors.
  2. All the colors can be identified but all the shades of each color may not be appreciated. So if one sees thousands of colors, you may see only a few hundreds.
  3. In rare cases, one may not identify any color at all. The world remains black, white, and grey for them.

The red-green poor vision is found only in men as the faulty gene that causes it is found in X chromosome. Women, who have 2 X chromosomes, do not usually get this form of poor vision as the other stronger X chromosome takes precedence!

Blue color poor vision is extremely rare and is found only in 5% of sufferers and the chances of getting affected remain equal in men and women.

Color blindness can be diagnosed by 2 simple eye tests. In one, you will be asked to identify a number or a letter in a maze of dots and circles of close color shades. The other test consists of arranging several chips on the basis of their colors and shades.

People with normal color vision can easily accomplish both feats quite easily. Having poor color vision will make it difficult.

Because color vision loss can have a big impact on your life, doctors recommend eye tests as early as possible i.e. around 3-5 years of age. All children should ideally get their vision tested before entering school.

Poor color vision can be a disease that sets limitations to certain things in life; you may not be able to get a driving license, learning and reading may become difficult.

Color vision problems cannot be cured. One has to find a way to work and function with the limited abilities.

  1. Using anti-glare glasses helps to a certain extent as one can differentiate colors and shades when the brightness is reduced.
  2. Wearing colored lenses remains an option.
  3. Learning the patterns and color codes also can be helpful. For example, memorizing the order of the lights at traffic signals.

The red-green poor vision is found only in men as the faulty gene that causes it is found in X chromosome.