Skip to main content

Your Optometrists in the Santa Cruz area!

Your Optometrists in the Santa Cruz area!

Home » What’s New » What is Color Blindness?

What is Color Blindness?


The inability to perceive colors or color blindness is a typically hereditary condition that impairs the ability to discern between color tones. Color blindness is a result of a dysfunction of the cones in the eye's retina, commonly damaging an individual's ability to differentiate shades of green or red, but might affect the perception of additional shades as well.


The perception of color depends on cones located within the retina of the eye. Humans are usually born with three types of cones, all of which perceive different wavelengths of color tone. With pigment, the size of the wave is directly linked to the perceived color tone. Short waves produce blues, middle-sized waves produce greens and long waves produce red tones. Which pigmented cone is affected has an impact on the spectrum and seriousness of the color blindness.


Red-green color blindness is more frequent in men than among women since the genetic code is linked to gender.


Color vision deficiencies are not a devastating condition, but can damage educational growth and limit choices of professions. Missing the ability to see colors as friends do can permanently and negatively impact a student's confidence. For working people, color blindness could become a drawback when competing against colleagues trying to advance in the same industry.


Eye doctors use several tests for the condition. The most widely used is the Ishihara color test, called after its designer. For this test a plate is shown with a circle of dots in different colors and sizes. Within the circle appears a numerical figure in a particular shade. The patient's ability to see the number inside the dots of contrasting colors reveals the level of red-green color blindness.


While hereditary color vision deficiencies can't be treated, there are a few steps that can assist to make up for it. Some people find that wearing tinted contacts or glasses which minimize glare can help to perceive the distinction between colors. More and more, computer applications are being developed for standard personal computers and for mobile machines that can assist people to distinguish color better depending on their particular condition. There is also promising research being conducted in gene therapy to improve color vision.


How much color vision problems limit a person is dependent upon the type and severity of the condition. Some individuals can accommodate to their deficiency by learning alternate cues for determining a color scheme. For example, many people can learn the order of traffic signals or contrast items with paradigms like a blue body of water or green plants.


If you suspect that you or a child might have a color vision deficiency it's advised to see an eye doctor. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the easier it will be to manage. Feel free to call our Scotts Valley, CA optometrists for additional details about color blindness.