Most of us see our world in color. If you have a color vision defect, you may see these colors differently than most people.
There are three main kinds of color vision defects. Red-green color vision defects are the most common. This type occurs in men more than in women. The other major types are blue-yellow color vision defects and a complete absence of color vision. Most of the time, color blindness is genetic. There is no treatment, but most people adjust and the condition doesn’t limit their activities.
Color blindness is a genetic condition that only rarely occurs in women, but affects one of every 15 men to some degree. When someone is color blind, it is usually because his or her eyes do not make the normal types of cone cell pigments needed for color vision.
In some cases, a person can have an acquired color vision problem. This can be caused by:
- Eye problems, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetic retinopathy.
- Injury to the eye.
- Side effects of some medicines.
Heredity is the main risk factor for color blindness. If your mother, father, or grandparents were color blind, you may have the gene(s) that cause color blindness. The condition is also more common in men.
The following risk factors increase your chance of developing acquired color blindness:
- Having certain diseases, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration
- Taking certain medications that can damage the retina and optic nerve, such as hydroxychloroquine
- Chronic alcoholism
- Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease
- Certain cancers, such as leukemia
It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.
Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your doctor.
People with color blindness cannot distinguish between some colors, especially red and green or blue and yellow.
Most people with inherited color blindness do not have symptoms. However, they may not see colors the same way as others without color blindness.
Possible Complications of Color Blindness
Complications linked to Color Blindness include:
- Career limitations
- Difficulty in performing certain regular/daily tasks
- Difficulty driving, especially distinguishing between traffic light colors
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. An eye exam and vision test will be done. Or, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for testing. You may want to consider going to an eye specialist first. The eye specialist may be better able to make a diagnosis.
Your vision will be tested. This can be done with:
- Ishihara plates test
- An arrangement test
Because a color vision problem can have a big impact on a person’s life, it is important to detect the problem as early as possible. In children, color vision problems can affect learning abilities and reading development. And color vision problems may limit career choices that require you to tell colors apart. Most experts recommend eye exams for children between ages 3 and 5. Vision screening is recommended for all children at least once before entering school, preferably between the ages of 3 and 4.
There is no cure for inherited color blindness. Most people with color blindness learn methods to tell the difference between colors.
Talk with your doctor about coping skills. Depending on the level of color blindness, some doctors recommend using color-corrective glasses or contact lenses.
In some cases of acquired color blindness or deficiency, treatment of the medical problem may correct the color blindness.
To help reduce your chances of getting acquired color blindness, discuss your use of prescribed medications with your doctor.
- Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
- American Academy of Ophthalmology
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Canadian Association of Optometrists
- Canadian Ophthalmological Society
- Cleveland Clinic