Most color-blind people can clearly see things like others, but they are unable to fully “appreciate or see” red, green, or blue light. There are extremely rare cases where people are unable to see any color at all, but the most common color blindness is red-green color blindness. Many color-blind people have a hard time distinguishing between blue and yellow as well. The retina is an organ at the back of our eyes that is responsible for the generation of visual signals. It has two different types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Rods are sensitive to light. Cones pick up the colors. Cones are sensitive to red, green, and blue while allowing us to see a spectrum of colors. If one cone malfunctions, color blindness or abnormal vision occurs. The vision in color blindness depends on different types:
Red-green color blindness:
- Deuteranomaly/green-weak: This is the most common type of color blindness. People with this type of color blindness see yellow and green as more red. It is also difficult to tell the difference between violet and blue. With deuteranomaly, the green cone is malfunctioning.
- Deuteranopia/green-blind: With this type of color blindness, people aren’t able to differentiate between red and green. Reds are often mistaken as brown/yellow and greens as beige. With deuteranopia, the green cone is missing.
- Protanomaly: With this type of color blindness, colors do not appear as bright. Colors such as red, orange, and yellow are greener. For those with protanomaly, the red cone is malfunctioning.
- Protanopia: People who have this type of color blindness see red as black. Shades will appear more yellow, specifically those that are orange, green, and yellow. The red cone is missing in protanopia.
Blue-yellow color blindness:
- Tritanomaly: This type of color blindness is very rare. People will see blue as green. They also struggle to differentiate yellow and red from pink. The blue cone is malfunctioning in tritanomaly.
- Tritanopia: This is known as blue-yellow color blindness. People will see blue as green. They will also see yellow as violet or light grey. The blue cone is missing.
Complete color blindness:
- Rod monochromacy or achromatopsia: With this color blindness, people are unable to differentiate any color. They can only see black, white, and shades of grey. This type of color blindness also causes severe light sensitivity. While this is the most severe, it is the most common type of complete color blindness.
- Cone monochromacy: With this type of color blindness, people struggle to distinguish colors. It is very rare. All three cones are not functional.
What are the treatment options for color blindness?
Currently, there is no cure for color blindness that is present since birth. Patients may sometimes benefit from special color glasses or tinted contact lenses. These may help to tell the difference between some shades. However, they don't give normal color vision.
In cases of acquired color blindness, doctors may try to address an underlying problem. Acquired color blindness is often a medication-related adverse event.
Some rare retinal disorders associated with color deficiency could possibly be modified with gene replacement techniques. These treatments are under study and might become available in the future.
The American Optometric Association reports that a contact lens on one eye can increase the ability to differentiate between different colors, although nothing can make you truly see the deficient color. Optometrists can supply colored spectacle lenses or a single red-tint contact lens to wear on the non-dominant eye. However, although this may improve discrimination of some colors, it can make other colors more difficult to distinguish.
The following tips may help to work around color blindness:
- Memorize the order of colored objects: If it's important to know individual colors, such as with traffic lights, memorize the order of the colors.
- Label colored items that you want to match with other items: Have someone with good color vision help you sort and label your clothing. Arrange your clothes in your closet or drawers so that colors that can be worn together are near each other.
- Use technology: There are apps for phones and digital devices that can help you identify colors.
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