The inability to perceive colors, or color blindness, is typically a genetic condition which impairs the ability to distinguish between shades of color. Color blindness is a result of damage to the cones in the macular area, generally preventing a viewer's ability to differentiate shades of green or red, but possibly affecting the ability to see other colors also.
The way we perceive colors depends on the cones found in the eye. People are commonly born with three varieties of cones, each of which perceives various wavelengths of color tone. This is comparable to wavelengths of sound. When it comes to colors, the size of the wave is directly associated with the perceived color tone. Short waves produce blue tones, medium-length waves are perceived as greens and longer waves produce red tones. Which pigmented cone is affected determines the spectrum and level of the color deficiency.
Red-green color vision problems are more frequent in males than among females because the genes are sex-linked and recessive.
Some people develop color vision deficiencies later in life as a result of another condition including injuries, cataracts and especially macular degeneration. Thankfully, it might be possible to restore color vision if the underlying cause can be corrected.
Optometrists use a few exams for color blindness. The most common is the Ishihara color exam, named after its inventor. For this test a patient views a plate with a group of dots in a circle in various colors and sizes. Inside the circle appears a numerical figure in a particular shade. The individual's ability to see the digit within the dots of clashing colors reveals the level of red-green color blindness.
Even though hereditary color blindness can't be treated, there are some steps that can improve the situation. Some people find that using tinted lenses or anti-glare glasses can help them perceive the distinction between colors. Increasingly, computer applications are becoming available for standard PCs and even for mobile devices that can help people enhance color distinction depending on their specific diagnosis. There are also interesting experiments underway in gene therapy to enhance the ability to perceive colors.
The extent to which color blindness limits an individual depends on the kind and severity of the deficiency. Some individuals can accommodate to their deficiency by familiarizing themselves with alternate cues for colored objects or signs. For example, one can try familiarizing oneself with the shapes of stop signs (rather than recognizing red) or comparing items with paradigms like green grass or a blue body of water.
If you notice signs that you or a family member could have a color vision deficiency it's advised to see an eye doctor. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the sooner you can help. Feel free to call our Fayetteville, NC eye doctors for further information about color blindness.