Color Blindness | Color Deficiencies
What is Color Blindness?
Color Blindness is a color vision deficiency in which there is an inability to distinguish between certain colors. The retina in the human eye is made up of rods and cones. Rods are useful for night vision and cones allow the eye to perceive color. Each cone contains a light sensitive pigment that is sensitive to a range of wavelengths. Humans have genes which carry the coding instructions for the cone pigments. All the different colors and mixtures of colors are seen if the coding instructions are all correct. Minor color deficiency occurs if the coding instructions for one or more pigments are slightly wrong because the wrong pigments are then produced. More severe color deficiencies occur when the cone pigments are extremely off.
Who does colorblindness effect?
Color Blindness is more common in males than females, nearly 5-8% of males and only .5% of females in the world are born colorblind.
What are the types of Color Blindness?
There is a misconception that colorblind means seeing only black and white. It is very rare to be completely color blind and not see any colors. There are many types and degrees of colorblindness which are better known as color deficiencies including: Protanomaly (red weakness), Deuteranomaly (green weakness), Dichromasy, Protanopia and Deuteranopia.
Protanomaly occurs in nearly one out of every one hundred males. Protanomaly, which is also known as red weakness, is when any redness is seen more weakly in terms of saturation, depth of color and brightness than when seen by the normal viewer. Other colors including orange, yellow and yellow-green also appear more green and paler than to the normal viewer. For example a person with protanomalous can easily mistake a blinking red traffic light for a yellow blinking light. Many people with protanomaly go through life normally with very little color vision difficulties and may not even be aware they have a color deficiency.
Deuteranomaly occurs in nearly five out of every one hundred males. Deuteranomaly, which is also known as green weakness, is very similar to Protanomaly with one exception. Deuteranomalous people do not have a weakness when it comes to brightness like protanomalous people do. Many people with deuteranomaly go through life normally with very little color vision difficulties and may not even be aware they have a color deficiency.
Dichromasy occurs in nearly two out of every one hundred males. People with dichromasy don’t see any difference between red, orange, yellow and green. Due to this perception those who have dichromasy typically know they have a color deficiency which can affect their lives.
Protanopia occurs in one out of every one hundred males. People with protanopia have reduced brightness in red, orange and yellow when compared to the normal viewer. This reduced brightness may causes reds to be confused with blacks or other dark colors.
Deuteranopia occurs in nearly one out of every one hundred males. People with deuteranopia have trouble distinguishing red, orange, yellow and greens like with protanopia but they do not experience abnormal dimming.
What are the causes of Color Blindness?
Color Blindness is most often an inherited condition. Most people with color deficiencies are born with them. Red and green deficiencies are the most common inherited color deficiencies. Men are more likely to have color deficiencies due to the X chromosomes. Women have two X chromosomes while men have only one X chromosome. If a man’s single X chromosome has color deficiencies then the male will be color deficient. In order for women to be color deficient they must inherit both X chromosomes with color deficiencies.
While genetics is the number one cause for color deficiencies there are several other possible causes:
- Shaken Baby Syndrome can cause retina and brain damage which can be a possible cause of color blindness.
- Trauma or accidents such as car accidents or strokes which cause swelling of the brain can be a possible cause of color blindness.
- UV retinal damage can be a cause of color blindness
- Chronic or long-term illnesses such as diabetes, glaucoma, leukemia, live disease and multiple sclerosis can be a cause of colorblindness.
- Certain medications like antibiotics can cause color deficiencies.
- Poisons such as carbon monoxide, fertilizers and a few other chemicals can be a cause of color deficiencies.
- As people age they are at higher risk for developing a color deficiency.
What are the dangers and/or annoyances of having Color Deficiencies?
There are many possible dangers that can be present in people with color deficiencies. The presence of such dangers is dependent on how strong the color deficiency is.
- One of the more prominent dangers involves traffic lights. For example: Blinking traffic lights can be either red or yellow but colorblind people may have trouble determining which color the light is. They may mistake a red blinking light for yellow and will go through the light slowly without stopping, potentially causing an accident.
- LED lights are now used as notifications and reminders on many devices. People with color deficiencies may have trouble differentiating from red, yellow or green lights.
- If a color blind person is out in the sun they may have trouble determining if they are getting red from the sun thus they may not know when to get out of the sun.
- Clothes shopping may be difficult for a person with color deficiencies. They may pick outfits that do not match or look funny due to their color deficiencies.
- Cooking foods may be harder for colorblind individuals. It is important when cooking and storing meat to be able to tell if it is red or brown which people with color deficiencies may have trouble determining.
There are many more annoyances and dangers that are present in individuals with color deficiencies, but those are some of the more common issues.
Is Color Blindness Treatable?
There is currently no treatment or cure for colorblindness. However, if you notice some symptoms of a color deficiency you should visit your eye care provider. While treating color deficiencies is not possible if detected early children and/or adults may have a better chance of adapting to and working around their deficiencies.
If you or your child is showing symptoms of a color deficiency Contact Family Vision Center to schedule an appointment with one of our Family Eye Doctors.