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Color Vision Deficiency

Category: Eye Physiology

Published: 2016-10-12

The term “color blindness” is a bit of a misnomer since very few people are completely color blind. Color vision deficiency more accurately describes the condition people experience because they are more often differentiating between colors is the primary symptom.

Those who are completely color  blind will only see the world as black and white or varying shades of gray. About 8 percent of Caucasian males are born with some degree of color vision deficiency. Women are affected less, at 0.5 percent.

What Causes Color Vision Deficiency?

The majority of cases occur due to genetics. The gene is inherited from the mother and is passed off to successive generations. Disease or injury to the optic nerve can also result in the inability to recognize colors. Some diseases that cause color vision deficiency are:

  • Diabetes
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular degeneration
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Leukemia
  • Sickle cell anemia

The severity of color deficiency usually remains the same throughout the sufferers lifetime, and very rarely leads to any vision loss or blindness.

How Is Color Vision Deficiency Diagnosed?

Most people with color vision deficiency can still see colors, but will have difficulty differentiating between shades of reds and greens (more common), or between blues and yellows (less common).

During a comprehensive eye exam, our Optometrists test for signs of color deficiency. This is done with the use of pseudoisochromatic plates –  pictures composed of colored dots arranged to form numbers or shapes. You will be asked to differentiate between the number seen from the adjacent colored dots. If no number is visible, you have a deficiency in the color used in that plate.

How Is Color Vision Deficiency Treated?

At this time,  there is no cure for color vision deficiency. The use of specially tinted eyeglasses or wearing red-tinted contact lenses on one eye can improve some people’s ability to distinguish between different colors.

Most people are able  to cope with colorblindness, finding simple “life hacks” and routines to help them adjust:

  • Organizing everyday objects like clothes based on color (with the help of someone who does not experience color vision deficiency)
  • Remembering the order of things rather than their color (traffic lights for example)

Although this condition can be frustrating and cause certain  limitations a person’s lifestyle, in most cases there is no threat to their vision. Learning to cope with color vision deficiency prove challenging, but overtime these changes will seem like second nature.