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Home » What's New » A Different Perspective: What is Colour Blindness?

A Different Perspective: What is Colour Blindness?


Colour blindness is a commonly innate condition which inhibits one's ability to differentiate among colours. Colour blindness is caused by a dysfunction of the cones in the retina, generally damaging a viewer's ability to differentiate varieties of red or green, but possibly influencing the ability to see additional colours too.


Colour perception depends on cones located in the eye. Humans are typically born with three kinds of cones, each perceiving various wavelengths of colour. This is comparable to the wavelengths of sound. When it comes to shades of colour, the size of the wave is directly connected to the perceived colour tone. Long waves produce red tones, medium-length waves produce greens and short waves produce blues. Which pigmented cone is affected determines the nature and seriousness of the colour blindness.


Green-red colour vision deficiencies are more frequent in males than among females since the genetic code is linked to gender.


Rarely, there are cases in which individuals acquire colour blindness later in life resulting from another condition including macular degeneration, glaucoma and aging. Thankfully, it could be possible to reverse the condition if the underlying cause is corrected.


There are a number of tests for colour blindness. The most widely used is the Ishihara colour test, called after its inventor. For this test a plate is shown with a circle of dots in seemingly random sizes and colours. Within the circle appears a number in a particular colour. The individual's ability to see the number within the dots of contrasting tones reveals the level of red-green colour blindness.


Although hereditary colour vision deficiencies can't be treated, there are some measures that can assist to improve the situation. For some, wearing coloured lenses or anti-glare glasses can help to perceive the differences between colours. Increasingly, computer applications are being developed for standard computers and for smaller machines that can help users distinguish colour better depending upon their specific diagnosis. There are also interesting experiments being conducted in gene therapy to enhance colour vision.


The extent to which colour vision problems limit a person is dependent upon the variant and degree of the condition. Some individuals can accommodate to their condition by familiarizing themselves with alternative clues for determining a colour scheme. For instance, many individuals are capable of learning the order of traffic signals or comparing objects with reference objects like green plants or a blue body of water.


If you notice signs that you or your family member might be colour blind it's advised to get tested by an optometrist. The sooner you are aware of a problem, the sooner you can help. Feel free to call our North Vancouver, BC optometrists for further information about colour blindness.