Colour Blindness: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

· 6 min read
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Colour blindness is a condition that causes an individual to see colours differently than most people. Another term for this is “lack of colour vision” or “colour deficiency” due to abnormalities in the photoreceptors called cones in the retina. If you suffer from this problem, you could have difficulty differentiating between colours, such as shades of green and red or hues of blue and yellow. Often, symptoms of colour blindness are very mild, so you may not even notice there’s an issue.

Besides, since people typically see the world with colours and become used to what they constantly see, many individuals who suffer from mild colour blindness are not even aware they have it. Ironically, colour blindness is rampant in families because it is a hereditary recessive trait that impacts the X chromosomes. So, chances are, if one of your relatives is colour blind, you can inherit the condition.

It would therefore be prudent to check your family history. Sadly, there is no cure if you are born with this condition. However, corrective glasses and special lenses can help manage the problem. So, let’s dive deep and learn more about colour blindness below:

Signs and Symptoms of Color Blindness

The primary symptom of colour blindness is the inability to see colours the way normal people do. If you are colour blind, you may suffer from the following issues:

  • You have trouble spotting the differences between certain colors.
  • It is impossible for you to tell the level of brightness of colors.
  • The usual gradation of color shades looks the same to you.
  • Colors may appear very dull in appearance.
  • You don’t see colors the way your peers do.
  • You confuse one color for another.

Again, most symptoms of this condition are very mild, so colour blindness often goes unnoticed and untreated. However, those who suffer from a serious case often experience other symptoms as well. For example, a severely colour blind person can have nystagmus or quick side-to-side eye movement. Another manifestation could be photosensitivity or the inability of the eyes to adjust to light quickly.

Different Types of Color Blindness

The effects brought about by colour deficiency could be mild, moderate, or severe. If your colour blindness is hereditary, the Colour Blindness Awareness Organization says your condition will remain the same in your lifetime. So though it may not get better, it won’t get worse, either.

Telling the difference between the colours red and green is the most common type of colour deficiency. Another variant is the difficulty of telling blue and yellow apart, though fewer people suffer from this.

The most severe and most rare type of colour blindness is complete colour blindness, where people only see black and white. This is called achromatopsia and is very rare, usually occurring in 1 in every 30,000 people in the world.

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Causes of Color Blindness

The most common cause of colour blindness is genetics. What does this mean? This condition is passed on from generation to generation in the family lineage. If you have one parent with colour deficiency, you are more likely to get this condition.

Sadly, you can also acquire this condition if you suffer an eye injury or brain injury through illness or an accident. Moreover, certain diseases can lead to colour blindness. For example, it can manifest much later in life as a result of long-standing diseases, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • All eye diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Some liver diseases
  • Specific neurological conditions

Certain medications that treat heart problems, autoimmune diseases, infections, and erectile dysfunctions can also result in poor colour vision. Similarly, exposure to chemicals at work like toxic fertilizers, pesticides, and carbon disulfide can lead to colour deficiency.

Besides, colour vision is known to degrade over time. Hence, your ability to see various colours will naturally deteriorate with age. The older you are, you may notice that certain colours seem to lose their vibrancy. The primary culprit is the onset of cataracts or the formation of cloudy areas in the eye lens, which leads to blurry and poor colour vision.

Certain Risk-Factors That Predispose You to Color Blindness

Most colour-blind people have inherited their condition, and wouldn’t have been able to escape it, since it was written in their DNA. The gene responsible for colour blindness is on the X chromosome, so that’s why more men have colour deficiency issues than women. Remember, each individual has one pair of sex chromosomes. Women get two pairs of X chromosomes, while men get one X and one Y chromosome.

For colour blindness to manifest in men, it just takes one X chromosome. Meanwhile, both X chromosomes must be affected for a female to exhibit colour blindness. Thus, men have a higher risk than women. In fact, a study showed that 1 in 12 men are colour blind as opposed to 1 in 200 women.

You are also more likely to experience colour blindness if you have the following risk factors:

  • You have a strong family history of color blindness
  • You suffer from certain eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or glaucoma
  • Health issues such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Certain medications such ethambutol, metronidazole, or antimalarials
  • Working in a hazardous environment
  • You are Caucasian

When to Get Your Vision Tested for Color Deficiency

Do you feel as though you might have a colour deficiency? The best thing to do is to speak with your doctor to get your vision tested.

If you are worried about potential health conditions that you and your family members might have, taking a comprehensive DNA test such as the CircleDNA test can confirm any health conditions you are genetically at risk of developing. This helps you take preventative measures.

Remember, it can be rather tricky to confidently diagnose colour blindness in young children. For one thing, smaller kids may still be learning their colours. Another factor is bigger kids get embarrassed and may try to hide it. However, telltale signs include the following:

  • Difficulty in reading a chalkboard
  • Struggling to perform certain activities
  • Trouble learning colors

If you feel concerned, especially if you have a strong family history of colour blindness, it is vital to get your family tested. You can go to an ophthalmologist or eye specialist to verify the condition.

Fret not, because the test for colour deficiency is very simple and not painful at all. You may have even encountered it during your driver’s license exam. In this test, you will be shown circle plates with varied coloured dots. Each circle has a shape inside formed by the dots. For example, it could be a letter, number, or line.

People with normal vision can readily see the shape in the circle. However, those afflicted with a lack of colour vision will have a hard time deciphering the image. They may not see the image at all or see something else.

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Possible Treatments to Ease Symptoms of Color Blindness

When it is an inherited condition, there is no cure for colour blindness. However, don’t despair, because many people with this condition find ways to adjust and perform daily activities. Also, most of the time, colour blindness doesn’t lead to any serious problems. You can be colour blind and still have a very normal life without serious complications.

However, children with colour blindness may need special attention and extra help in classroom activities. As for adults, certain jobs where colour identification plays a key role may no longer be an option. Examples of these jobs include graphic design, electrical engineering, or aviation.

Should your colour blindness result from another health condition and not from your DNA, your doctor must get to the root of the problem to address it. For example, if the culprit is a medication you’re taking, your physician may adjust the dosing or ask you to revert to a different variant.

If colour blindness interferes with normal activities, you can count on innovation to help. Firstly, you can wear special eyeglasses or contact lenses. These are specifically designed to help you differentiate between colours.

Secondly, you can utilize technology for colour guidance. Today, so many visual aids and apps help people with colour blindness. To illustrate, the Color Blind Pal App was designed to assist colour blind people in seeing the various colours in the world. At the same time, it shows people with a normal vision what it is like to have a colour deficiency, allowing them to be more empathetic to others.

Remember, if you suffer from a colour deficiency, it is vital to work with your eye specialist. You may need corrective lenses and visual aids for daily tasks.

Lastly, stay positive as colour blindness most likely won’t impact your life negatively or cause major problems for you. Your physical health is much more important than your ability to identify colours.