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Color Blindness: Guide to Diagnosis and Potential Treatments

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 @ 01:12 AM
Author: Amit Mathur

Color blindness is something that is often misunderstood. Despite what most people think, being color blind does not mean you are completely unable to see any color or you only see in black, white and grey. Almost every person who is color blind simply has trouble distinguishing between certain colors—most commonly they can’t tell the difference between reds, greens and blues.

For example, if a person can’t see red colors and tones they might have trouble distinguishing between purple and blue. This is because without the red tint in purple, it will look blue to them. It is very rare that a person would not be able to see any colors at all.


What Causes Color Blindness?

In 99% of cases of color blindness the cause is genetics. There are cells called ‘cone cells’ inside your retinas that are what allow you to sense red, green and blue light, and the strength of these cells are passed down through your mother’s X Chromosomes. Your mother might have genes that are deficient in producing these cells, or just producing them as strongly, even if she is not herself colorblind.

This is also why men are colorblind far more often than women—around 1 in 12 men have the condition as opposed to 1 in 200 women. This is because women have two X Chromosomes whereas men only have one, so they are more likely to receive the gene that passes on the deficient cone cells.

There are other causes of color blindness, but they only account for around 1% of all cases. Here are some of the more common non-genetic causes that can cause it:

  • Diseases & health conditions such as Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis
  • Eye conditions such as Glaucoma, age-related Macular Degeneration, and cataracts
  • Eye and brain injuries
  • Aging and some medication side effects

Depending on your specific case, there might be some cures or treatment for color blindness that can partially restore your ability to distinguish colors.

How Is Color Blindness Diagnosed?

Because color blindness is not so obvious, it can be difficult to detect. Why would you ever ask to be tested if colors look normal to you? You still see colors, but it might take a while for you to realize that you see different colors than most people and it is because you are seeing them incorrectly.

If you want to be tested, you can ask your doctor or optometrist to test your color vision. There are several tests that can be performed, but here are the more common ones:

  • Ishihara test—you are shown plates with dots in two different colors and one color forms a number
  • Farnsworth-Munsell hue test—you are given various colored plates and you must arrange them in a given order
  • Color Arrangement test—you are given one colored tile and asked to arrange other colored tiles in order of similarity to the original

In all three of these tests, and in most basic color blindness tests, it is a simple way of showing whether the person can distinguish between certain colors and hues. They will reveal if a person confuses certain colors or if they are unable of seeing some of them.

There are also more advanced tests that are usually done to screen people from certain careers that rely on your ability to see all colors accurately, such as pilots or train conductors.

Are There Any Treatments Or Cures For Color Blindness?

Color blindness caused by genetics does not improve over time, which is why it is important for parents to have their children tested early in their lives, as it is easier to reduce its impact or correct the condition with special lenses that can filter light for them. Certain injuries, diseases or medication side effects that cause color blindness might be able to be reversed or corrected, and again it is easier to manage if you are diagnosed early.

There is no common cure for color blindness, but there are some new studies and research that shows there might be one day in the not too distant future. Things like Gene Therapy have been used successfully on color-blind monkeys to cure the condition, but human trials have not been approved yet. There is another potential cure in the form of a single Adeno-associated virus injection that has shown similar promise and might soon begin human trials in 2017.

Such cures are not likely to become common or easily accessible to people any time soon, and when they do they will undoubtedly be expensive to begin with. But there is hope that it could happen in our lifetime.

To learn more about color blindness, treatments and diagnosis or to book an eye exam, contact your local eye doctor today.

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