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Color blindness means that you
have trouble seeing red, green, or blue or a mix of these colors. It's rare
that a person sees no color at all.
Color blindness is also called
a color vision problem.
A color vision problem can change your
life. It may make it harder to learn and read, and you may not be able to have
certain careers. But children and adults with color vision problems can learn
to make up for their problems seeing color.
Most color vision
problems are inherited (genetic) and are present at
People usually have three types of cone cells in the eye.
Each type senses either red, green, or blue light. You see color when your cone
cells sense different amounts of these three basic colors. The highest concentration of cone cells are
found in the
macula, which is the central part of the
Inherited color blindness happens when you don't have one of these types
of cone cells or they don't work right. You may not see one of these three
basic colors, or you may see a different shade of that color or a different
color. This type of color vision problem doesn't change over time.
A color vision problem isn't always inherited. In some cases, a person
can have an acquired color vision problem. This can be caused by:
The symptoms of color
vision problems vary:
how well you recognize different colors.
Because a color vision problem can
have a big impact on a person's life, it is important to detect the problem as
early as possible. In children, color vision problems can affect learning
abilities and reading development. And color vision problems may limit career choices that require you to tell colors apart. Most experts
recommend eye exams for children between ages 3 and 5. Vision screening is
recommended for all children at least once before entering school, preferably
between the ages of 3 and 4.
Inherited color vision problems
cannot be treated or corrected.
For the most common type of color blindness—red-green color deficiency—no treatment is needed, because you function normally. You may not be aware that you do not see colors the way they are seen by others.
Some acquired color vision
problems can be treated, depending on the cause. For example, if a cataract is
causing a problem with color vision, surgery to remove the cataract may restore
normal color vision.
You can find ways to help make up for a color
vision problem, such as:
Color vision problems may make it harder for children to learn and read, which
can lead to poor schoolwork and low self-esteem.
You can help your
child these ways.
Learning about color blindness:
The American Optometric Association (AOA), which is a
national organization of optometrists, can provide information on eye health
and eye problems.
EyeCare America is a public service program of the
Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This site aims to raise awareness about
eye diseases and eye care. It has information about eye conditions, treatments, and general eye health. You can check to see if you qualify for a free eye exam.
As part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Eye
Institute provides information on eye diseases and vision research.
Publications are available to the public at no charge. The Web site includes
links to various information resources.
Prevent Blindness America assists the visually impaired
and provides consumer information on vision problems and vision aids.
Its website has information about eye health and safety for children
and adults. Many states have local affiliates.
American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. (2003, reaffirmed 2007). Policy statement: Eye examination in infants, children, and young adults by pediatricians. Pediatrics, 111(4): 902–907.
Other Works Consulted
Chang DF (2011). Ophthalmologic examinations. In P Riordan-Eva, ET Cunningham, eds., Vaughan and Asbury's General Ophthalmology, 18th ed., pp. 27–57. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Fletcher EC, et al. (2011). Retina and retinal disorders. In P
Riordan-Eva, JP Whitcher, eds., Vaughan and Asbury's General Ophthalmology, 18th ed., pp. 190–221. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Neitz J, et al. (2011). Color vision. In LA Levin et al., eds., Adler's Physiology of the Eye, 11th ed., pp. 648–654. New York: Saunders.
Sieving PA, Caruso RC (2009). Retinitis pigmentosa and related disorders. In M Yanoff, JS Duker, eds., Ophthalmology, 3rd ed., pp. 550–559. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.
January 25, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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