Colour Blindness

What is it?

People who are "colour blind" are not actually blind; rather, they just see colours differently than most people.  A more correct term is "colour vision deficient".  There are many different types of these deficiencies ranging from a mild problem distinguishing colours up to actually seeing only in shades of grey.  The most common type is called a "red/green colour deficiency" where those colours, among others, are difficult to tell apart.

What causes it?

Colour vision deficiencies are typically caused by genetics, but some health or eye conditions or even medications can bring them on.  If the condition is inherited, it normally comes from the mother's side, is presented from birth, and affects about 8% of males but only around 0.5% of females.

How does it affect my eyes?

Colour vision deficiencies do not bother the eyes themselves, but instead can be bothersome to the person they affect.  If a child is colour vision deficient but has not been diagnosed yet, they may have problems matching their clothes, troubles colouring pictures, or may be doing poorly in art class at school.  Later in life, a colour vision deficiency can affect career choices since careers like police, transportation, electrician and design may not be possible or may require special testing before such a career field is pursued.

What can be done about it?

Early detection through an eye exam or vision screening is important to identify colour vision deficiencies before they start hurting a child's schoolwork and before career options are explored.  There is no cure for the condition, and experimental fixes such as using coloured lenses are still controversial.  Colours are hardest for those with a deficiency to distinguish when objects are small, similar in tone (e.g. all pastels), and when seen under dim lighting. Luckily, genetically inherited types remain stable through life, so those with a colour vision deficiency often figure out their own tricks and techniques to compensate for their condition.

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