Color Blindness: It’s Not All Black and White

by Dec 12, 2018

What’s commonly known as “color blindness” is a hereditary condition that affects the way colors are perceived.  Contrary to what the name suggests, people affected by color blindness can still see color. However, the colors they know to be red, blue, yellow, or green, are perceived differently than how a normal eye interprets them.  A more accurate description of the condition is “color vision deficiency.”

color blindness

The Cause of Color Deficiency

Color deficiency is inherited by an X-linked recessive gene.  Essentially, this means mothers can be carriers of the disease, and their sons have a chance of being affected. Rarely are females affected with color blindness, as carriers do not have any noticeable symptoms of the disease.

In those affected by color vision deficiency, the symptoms are cause by malfunctioning photoreceptors.  Photoreceptors are the light-sensitive cells in the retina that help transmit the light that we see to the brain.  Some photoreceptors are specifically sensitive to perceiving color, and transmitting that information to the brain. In people with a color deficiency, these specific color photoreceptors are either absent or malfunctioning.  Hence, colors are seen differently.

In some cases of retinal disease or damage, color vision deficiencies can be acquired.  If this is the case, further testing is warranted to identify the cause of the malfunctioning photoreceptors.


How Do the Color Blind See?

As mentioned earlier, color blindness does not limit the individual to seeing only shades of black and white.  To people affected by a color vision deficiency, colors may seem less vivid or more easily confused. Browns may be confused with reds; yellows may be confused with greens.  What people with a color deficiency know to be blue, may not be blue at all.

There are two main type of color vision deficiencies; red-green color blindness, and blue-yellow color blindness. Red-green deficiencies are more common, and they are caused by dysfunction of either the photoreceptors known as protans or deutans, which respond to red and green wavelengths.  These individuals may struggle more with differentiating between shades of red, orange and green. Blue-yellow deficiencies are caused by malfunctioning tritan photoreceptors, and are significantly less common.


Living With Color Blindness

Unfortunately, there is no treatment to “cure” color blindness.  Those affected by the condition simply learn how to adapt with their unique vision.  Recent developments in lens technologies have produced special spectacle lenses that may help those with red-green color deficiencies more accurately appreciate colors; however, these lenses are expensive, rare, and only a temporary fix.

If an optometrist diagnosis you with color vision deficits, you do not need to worry about negative ramifications.  Rarely does a color vision deficiency negatively affect one’s lifestyle. However, there are certain professions that require accurate color vision, in which case color blindness may prove to be a burden.  But day-to-day tasks, even determining the color of a stop-light, are not commonly affected by color deficits.

Color vision deficiencies can be diagnosed during comprehensive eye exams by special testing.  If you think you or a loved one has a color vision problem, see your doctor at Neal Eye Group.


If you or a family member suffers from color blindness, don’t panic! Your eye doctor at Neal Eye Group will be able to walk you through the diagnosis and can offer suggestions to help! If you have any further questions about colorblindness call us at (610) 828-9701 to make an appointment for an eye exam with the Neal Eye Group.  We serve Norristown, King of Prussia, Philadelphia, and East Norriton.

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