Understanding Color Vision Deficiency
November 13, 2013
Some time in your life you may have known someone who was “colorblind,” or maybe even have a family member who has this problem. Color vision deficiency, aka colorblindness, is not an uncommon condition, and the facts behind it may interest you.
The parts of your eye that are involved in color vision are called cones. Three types of cones (green, red, and blue) are responsible for detecting the color signals that are transferred into your eye. When one or more of these cone sets are absent or damaged, color vision deficiency results. The most common type an optometrist diagnoses is red-green colorblindness, where the patient has a difficult time detecting the difference between these shades, either seeing all those shades as the same basic color, or seeing them in variations of grey.
Myths of Colorblindness
Contrary to popular belief, people who are colorblind are generally not seeing their entire world in shades of grey or in black and white. While this extreme condition, called achromatopsia, does exist, it is fairly uncommon. More often, patients with color vision deficiency have issues specifically with the previously mentioned red-green shades, or with blue-yellow combinations.
Who’s at Risk?
Male children are more prone to being born with color vision issues than are females, though it is possible for females to have the problem. Your optometrist should be notified immediately if you notice your child exhibit signs of color vision problems, like using unusual colors of crayons when drawing, having learning difficulties when color is used as a cue, or avoiding activities that require heavy reliance on color vision, including sports.
Other causes of colorblindness are injury, certain medications like heart or high blood pressure drugs, or conditions such as leukemia, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.
While there is no cure for color vision issues, alternative methods can be used to help children stay current on learning and adults to accommodate the problem. Consult your optometrist immediately if you notice any signs of vision trouble in a child or any changes in your own vision.