Whenever I tell people I have color blindness their usual initial response of surprise consists of pointing to something nearby and asking me what color it is. This is followed by them asking how color blindness works and usually a mix of confusion and amazement results. After going through this similar process a couple of times, I began to realize that I didn’t even really know what color blindness was outside of knowing I couldn’t distinguish red and green hues well. Thus, I decided to write this article in order to discover more information about my own condition and inform others who may be misinformed or curious about color blindness as well.
What is Color Blindness?
Color blindness is an eye condition that prevents people from seeing colors normally and makes them hard to distinguish. Most people are born with it, particularly sons inheriting it from their carrier mothers since the gene is carried on the X chromosome. This means that 8% of men worldwide are affected compared to only 0.5% of women, according to the Color Blindness Awareness Organization. However, sometimes it can happen later in life due to disease. Additionally, the condition usually affects both eyes equally and can be tested using Ishihara color plates that have a number in a circle of dots that are a different color.
What Causes Color Blindness?
In the eye’s retina, there are two cells that detect light called the rods and cones. Rods detect light and darkness while cones detect color. There are three types of cones that each detect different colors: red, green, and blue. Color blindness occurs when at least one of these three cone cells is absent, not working, or detects the wrong color. Depending on how faulty the cone cell is, the degree of color blindness can vary. For example, those with mild color blindness may only have difficulty distinguishing colors in different lighting.
What are the Different Types of Color Blindness?
The three main types of color blindness are protanomaly, deuteranomaly, and tritanomaly. Protanomaly and deuteranomaly are often called red-green color blindness where those hues tend to look similar as an almost brown color. However, just because it is called red-green color blindness does not mean those are the only two colors that are indistinguishable. It’s important to understand that those with red-green color blindness often confuse colors that have red or green hues in them. Deuteranomaly is the most common form of color-blindness and those who have it cannot perceive green light. They often confuse mid red and greens and lighter colors. Those with protanomaly cannot perceive red light and often confuse black with shades of red and darker colors. The rarest of the three is tritanomaly in which people cannot perceive blue light and confuse light blue with grey and dark purple with black. An extreme form of color blindness called monochromacy is rare (1 in 33,000 people according to the Color Blindness Awareness Organization). People with monochromacy see things in shades of grey and may have to wear dark glasses in normal light conditions.
How Does Color Blindness Affect People?
While color blindness does not have major consequences, it does make some things considered simple more difficult. From having difficulty accurately painting a picture, distinguishing different ways meat is cooked, and having to look closely at certain light displays, these are all examples of simple problems that those with normal sighted people are not aware of. Overall, color blindness is typically harmless but makes some aspects of life a bit more challenging.