Color vision deficiency, sometimes referred to as color blindness, affects one out of every 12 men and one out of every 200 women. It is usually genetically inherited, but eye injury accidents and certain diseases also can result in a loss of color recognition.
How Does it Occur?
Color originates from light. When light hits an object, a certain amount of light is absorbed or reflected in different wavelengths, depending on its properties. Each color has its own wavelength spectrum. The reflected wavelengths of light travel into the retina of the human eye. The light hits the eye’s cones, the photoreceptors found in the macula portion of the retina. The primary function of the light-sensitive cones is to transmit the wavelength information through the optic nerve to the brain, which will then identify the name of the color. Color vision deficiency results when the cones in the retina are lacking one or more of the pigments responsible for correctly identifying the correct light wavelength.
What Are the Symptoms?
Color vision deficiency does not mean the individuals cannot see colors, they just have a more difficult time distinguishing among them. The most common mix-up is between red and green. A more rare form of the condition is the difficulty distinguishing between blue and yellow. The ability to tell the difference between colors is directly related to how light or dark the shades are. In some cases, affected individuals will see no color, or just shades of gray.
How is the Condition Diagnosed?
Since color vision deficiency ranges from mild to extreme, it’s not uncommon for an individual to never know they live with the condition. Normally it is detected at a regular eye exam. The eye doctor holds up a testing plate and asks the patient to identify the correct numbers in a circle filled with colorful dots. The individuals may not see any numbers at all, or they may name the incorrect number. Because many elementary-aged learning materials are based on color identification, the American Optometric Association recommends all children receive a comprehensive eye examination before they begin full-time schooling so teachers can make adjustments for affected children. The condition may limit the individual’s choice of career path, making it difficult to pursue becoming a pilot, doctor, police officer or firefighter.
Can Treatment Help the Condition?
Inherited genetic forms of the condition cannot be treated. If it has developed due to side effects from a disease or medication, treating the disease itself or switching medications can effectively restore color identification. Some individuals who struggle to overcome incorrect color identification wear color-tinted glasses or contacts. While these products do not solve the inherent deficiency, they provide a starker contrast between colors, which can help in proper identification.
If you think you or a loved one may have color vision deficiency, discuss your concerns with the professional staff at Salt Lake Eye Associates and schedule an in-office examination.