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Color Blindness: An Overview

Color blindness is a disorder affecting one's ability to see colors under typical lighting conditions or to discern colors as they are seen by normal individuals. Typically, the condition is genetic, but it can also be a result of old age or a number of diseases of the eye.

The discernment of different hues is dependent upon the cones found in the eye. People are typically born with three types of cones, each perceiving different wavelengths of color. This is similar to the wavelengths of sound. When it comes to shades of color, the length of the wave is directly linked to the perceived color tone. Long waves produce red tones, middle-sized waves produce green tones and short waves project blues. Which type of cone is missing determines the spectrum and seriousness of the color deficiency.

Because it is a sex-linked genetically recessive trait, many more males are green-red color blind than women. Nevertheless, there are plenty of women who do experience varying degrees of color blindness, specifically yellow-blue deficiencies.

Some individuals develop color vision deficiencies later in life resulting from another condition such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. Fortunately, if one of these situations were to cause color blindness, it may be possible to reverse the color deficiency when the condition is treated.

Optometrists use a number of tests for color blindness. The most common is the Ishihara color test, named after its inventor. In this test a patient views a plate with a circle of dots in seemingly random colors and sizes. Inside the circle appears a numerical figure in a particular shade. The patient's capability to see the number inside the dots of clashing hues examines the level of red-green color blindness.

While hereditary color blindness can't be corrected, there are some measures that can assist to improve the situation. Some people find that wearing tinted lenses or anti-glare glasses can help people to perceive the distinction between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are on the market for regular PCs and for smaller machines that can help people distinguish color better depending upon their particular condition. There is also interesting research being conducted in gene therapy to correct color vision.

The extent to which color vision problems limit an individual depends on the variant and severity of the condition. Some individuals can adapt to their condition by familiarizing themselves with alternate cues for colored objects or signs. For instance, familiarizing oneself with the shapes of traffic signs (instead of recognizing red) or contrasting items with reference objects like green plants or a blue body of water can help.

If you notice signs that you or a family member could have a color vision deficiency it's advised to get tested by an eye doctor. The sooner you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to live with. Feel free to call our Lake Grove, NY optometry practice for information about scheduling an exam.



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