Color Blindness: Symptoms, Causes, How to Adapt, and When to See an Eye Doctor

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color blindness test with spheres
by Dougherty Laser Vision

Color blindness does not mean the person afflicted with this condition is actually blind. It simply means they have a vision deficiency to be able to distinguish between different colors in the color spectrum. The most common type is red-green color blindness. Another type is blue-yellow color blindness, but it is not as common.

How We See Color

To understand color blindness symptoms, we first need to look at how we see color. The light all around us consists of numerous photons that each has its own wavelength. This wavelength corresponds to a color on the color spectrum that consists of blues, reds, and greens, and variations of these primary colors. When all the colors combine, we are left with bright white light.

Our eyes process color through the retina at the back of the eye where there are photoreceptors called rods and cones. The rods detect the level of light, not determine the color. Cones, on the other hand, are divided up into blue, red, and green cones.

Each colored cone helps detect the wavelength of the light and its color. When light hits an object, it absorbs all wavelengths except for its color. Whatever color the object is, the wavelengths in that color are reflected, which gives the object its color.

Color Blindness Symptoms

Color blindness occurs when someone experiences partial loss or full loss of the ability to distinguish between colors due to various defects in the cones in the eye. There are three general types of color blindness:

  1. Anomalous Trichromacy: The person has problems distinguishing between various colors. For example, a red skirt might appear to be brown to someone with red-green color blindness.
  2. Dichromacy: This type of color blindness is when there is a full loss of one or more sets of color cones in the eyes. The person is not able to detect the affected colors. For instance, someone with blue-yellow colorblindness, who cannot detect blue, would see a yellow object as green.
  3. Monochromacy: This color blindness type is when all three color cones experience a full loss of function. A person with monochromacy only sees things in black, white, and varying shades of gray.

What Causes Color Blindness?

One of the most common causes of color blindness is related to genetics. If one of your parents has some type of color blindness, there is a high probability that you, too, could have some degree of color blindness. Other causes that can cause color deficiencies in the cones to full failure could include:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Parkinson’s
  • Kallman’s Syndrome
  • Glaucoma
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Certain Medications
  • LHON (Lebel’s Hereditary Opti Neuropathy)
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Leukemia
  • MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
  • Alcoholism

Depending on the causes of color blindness, one might notice colors start to become less vivid and bright before losing the ability to distinguish a particular color.

How to Adapt?

Some people have friends and family who label various objects like clothing to tell them what color it is. You can also remember the order of particular objects like stop lights, where red is on top and green is on the bottom.

women wearing color contacts

Some people also see their eye doctor to find out whether certain treatments might be viable. For example, wearing a red contact lens or red-tinted glasses could help better distinguish colors.

For some people, laser eye surgery could resolve the problem, as with cataracts. By removing the cataracts, vision and colors are restored. While there is no cure currently for color blindness, new research is ongoing. One day, there might be a potential cure.

If you have concerns about color blindness and want to find out if laser vision surgery or other options could help you better distinguish colors, please feel free to contact Dougherty Laser Vision at (805) 422-7939 to schedule a virtual telehealth or in-patient appointment today!