When we see color, our eyes perceive various wavelengths of light. Our eyes contain two types of cells or photoreceptors that allow us to process light and distinguish colors. There are two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Rods detect different light and dark sensitivities while cones detect colors when light is present. This explains why things look different in the dark. Each wavelength of light displays a different shade of color, reds have the longest wavelengths while blues have the shortest.
Color blindness, an often-misunderstood condition, means your eyes don’t see color the way they should. Though many people commonly associate the phrase color blindness with only seeing shades of black and white, that specific type of color blindness is rare. In fact, most patients with color blindness do see color, but in a much narrower range. So what exactly is color blindness?
What is color blindness?
Color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency, is a condition that affects the way you see color. Patients with color blindness can see colors, but their deficiency makes it hard to distinguish between certain colors or may cause them to see neutral or gray where color appears. There are various degrees of color blindness but the most fall into the two main types of color vision deficiency: red-green color blindness or blue-yellow color blindness.
Color blindness is often a hereditary condition, commonly passed down from mother to son due to a common x-linked recessive gene. In cases of inherited color blindness, both eyes are affected. This condition may also occur as a result of disease or injury to the eye that damages your optic nerve or your retina but may only affect your eyes differently and worsen over time.
Symptoms and Signs
The signs and symptoms can vary depending on the type of color vision deficiency you have. In cases where color vision is inherited, the signs may not be obvious until someone mentions it as you have always seen colors a certain way. However, in cases where color blindness is acquired later in life, you may notice a shift in the way you see colors.
Common symptoms of color blindness can include having trouble distinguishing colors and the inability to tell the difference in shades of the same color. In severe cases, a person may not see any color at all and instead see in shades of gray, this type of color blindness is known as achromatopsia.
If you suspect you or your child may have a color vision deficiency, your optometrist can help with a comprehensive eye exam and a simple color vision test. Typically, the test designed to diagnose patients with color blindness consists of the patient distinguishing patterns from colored dots. Patients with a color vision deficiency will have a hard time finding the shape or number in these tests and may not see a pattern at all.
There is no treatment cure for patients diagnosed with a color vision deficiency. However, various symptom management options can help patients to distinguish colors properly. Many people diagnosed with this condition learn to adapt without any significant difficulties. Recently, color correcting lenses have been developed and have shown great success in helping patients to see color. However, these lenses may not work on all types of color blindness.
Color blindness can be frustrating, but we are here to help you or your loved one learn to adapt and take hold of their condition. For more information on color blindness or to schedule an appointment, contact St. Lucy’s Vision Center today.