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How We Perceive Color: Understanding Color Vision Deficiencies

Color blindness is a generally hereditary condition that inhibits the ability to differentiate among shades of color. Color blindness is a result of damage to the cones in the eye's macular area, typically preventing a viewer's power to differentiate variants of red or green, but possibly affecting the ability to see additional hues too.

The discernment of color depends on the cones found in the eye. Humans are typically born with three varieties of cones, each perceiving various wavelengths of color tone. When it comes to pigment, the size of the wave is directly associated with the perceived color tone. Long waves are seen as red tones, moderately-sized waves produce greens and short waves produce blue tones. Which pigmented cone is affected impacts the nature and severity of the color blindness.

Red-green color blindness is more frequent in males than in females since the genes are gender linked.

Rarely, there are cases where individuals acquire color blindness later in life resulting from another condition including aging, injuries and especially macular degeneration. Fortunately, if one of these situations were to cause color blindness, it might be possible to reverse the color deficiency when the condition is treated.

Optometrists use several evaluation methods to diagnose the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color exam, named after its designer. For this test a patient views a plate with a group of dots in a circle in various colors and sizes. Inside the circle appears a numerical figure in a particular color. The patient's ability to make out the number inside the dots of clashing shades indicates the level of red-green color sight.

Although hereditary color vision deficiencies can't be corrected, there are a few options that can assist to make up for it. Some evidence shows that wearing colored contacts or glasses which block glare can help people to perceive the differences between colors. Increasingly, computer programs are becoming available for regular personal computers and even for mobile machines that can help users enhance color distinction depending on their particular condition. There is also promising research being conducted in gene therapy to correct color vision.

How much color vision problems limit a person is dependent upon the type and severity of the deficiency. Some individuals can accommodate to their deficiency by learning alternate cues for colored objects or signs. For instance, they can learn the shape of stop signs rather than recognize red, or compare objects with paradigms like green plants or the blue sky.

If you suspect that you or a loved one could have a color vision deficiency it's advised to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the sooner you can help. Contact our Tupelo, MS eye doctors for additional details about color blindness.