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How We Perceive Color: All About Color Blindness

Color blindness is a condition affecting the ability to see colors under normal light or to perceive colors as they are typically viewed. Usually, the disorder is present at birth, but it can also be a result of accidents or a variety of diseases of the eye.

Color perception depends on the cones found in the eye's macula. Humans are generally born with three varieties of cones, each perceiving different wavelengths of color tone. This is comparable to the wavelengths of sound. With color, the size of the wave is directly connected to the resulting pigment. Long waves produce red tones, moderately-sized waves are seen as green tones and shorter waves are perceived as blue tones. The pigmented cone that is missing determines the nature and seriousness of the color deficiency.

Green-red color vision problems are more common among men than in women since the genetic code is linked to gender and recessively inherited.

Some people develop color vision problems later in life as a result of another condition such as injuries, cataracts and especially macular degeneration. Fortunately, if one of these situations were to cause color blindness, it may be possible to reverse the color deficiency by treating the condition.

There are several tests for the color blindness. The most common is the Ishihara color exam, called after its inventor. In this test, a plate is shown with a group of dots in a circle in different sizes and colors. Inside the circle appears a number in a particular tint. The individual's ability to see the number inside the dots of contrasting tones determines the level of red-green color vision.

Even though hereditary color blindness can't be treated, there are a few steps that can assist to make up for it. For some, using colored lenses or anti-glare glasses can help people to perceive the distinction between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are on the market for standard personal computers and even for smaller devices that can help people enhance color distinction depending on their particular condition. There are also promising experiments being conducted in gene therapy to correct color vision.

How much color blindness limits a person depends on the kind and severity of the condition. Some patients can adapt to their condition by learning substitute clues for colored objects or signs. For example, they might become familiar with the shape of stop signs in place of recognizing red, or compare objects with color paradigms like green plants or the blue sky.

If you suspect that you or your child might have a color vision deficiency it's important to see an optometrist. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the sooner you can help. Feel free to call our West Winfield, NY optometry practice to schedule an exam.


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