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What is Color Blindness?

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Color blindness is a generally genetic disability that impairs someone's ability to distinguish among color tones. Color blindness is a result of damage to the cones in the retina. Typically, it damages a viewer’s ability to distinguish between varieties of red or green, but it can adversely affect the perception of other shades as well.


The perception of different hues is dependent upon the cones located in the eye. People are generally born with three kinds of pigmented cones, all perceiving different wavelengths of color. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. With colors, the size of the wave is directly connected to the resulting color. Short waves project blues, medium-length waves produce greens and longer waves generate reds. The type of cone that is missing impacts the nature and level of the color deficiency.


Red-green color blindness is more common among males than among females because the genetic coding is sex-linked.


There are many cases in which people obtain color vision deficiencies later in life resulting from another condition such as macular degeneration, aging and medicinal side effects. Thankfully, it might be possible to restore color vision once the cause is treated


There are a number of tests for the condition. The most common is the Ishihara color exam, named after its inventor. In this test a plate is shown with a group of dots in a circle in differing sizes and colors. Within the circle one with proper color vision can see a numerical figure in a particular shade. The individual's ability to see the number within the dots of contrasting tones indicates the level of red-green color blindness.


While genetic color vision deficiencies can't be treated, there are some measures that can help to make up for it. For some using tinted contacts or glasses which minimize glare can help people to see the differences between colors. Increasingly, computer applications are on the market for common PCs and even for smaller devices that can help people enhance color distinction depending upon their particular condition. There is also interesting research underway in gene therapy to improve color vision.


The extent to which color blindness limits a person is dependent upon the type and degree of the deficiency. Some patients can adapt to their deficiency by familiarizing themselves with alternate cues for colored objects or signs. For instance, one might familiarize oneself with the shapes of traffic signs rather than recognize red or contrast objects with paradigms like the blue sky or green plants.


If you notice signs that you or your family member might be color blind it's advised to see an optometrist. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the easier it will be to live with. Contact our Canton, OH eye doctors for information about scheduling an exam.

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