Color blindness: what is it?

Color blindness, also known as color vision deficitIt is a condition in which the ability to appreciate color is partially or totally diminished. It is a relatively common condition since studies they suggest up to 8% of people of European descent may have it. We teach you everything you should know about this condition.

Men are more likely to develop color blindness because the gene that causes the condition is found on the X chromosome. For example, and in contrast to the reported prevalence, only 0.4% of women with European ancestry are thought to develop it. The condition has no cure, but there are therapeutic alternatives to achieve a normal life.

What is color blindness?

Color blindness has genetic causes
The origin of color blindness is multifactorial, although many cases have a strong genetic component.

As it reminds us American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), this condition is characterized by the fact that patients have a different appreciation of color. The human eye has two cells that are specialized for receiving and interpreting color: rods and cones. These, especially the cones, react to the different wavelengths of the colour.

At this point it should be remembered that the colors are distinguished by the length of the frequency of their wave. Hues near red (orange and yellow) have long wavelengths, while those near violet (indigo and blue) have shorter frequency lengths. Green, being in the center of the spectrum, has a medium length.

In a person with color blindness, the pigments located in their cones have trouble receiving or interpreting wavelengths. Therefore, the condition is caused by a misalignment of the cones of the eye’s retina.

There are several types of color blindness, although they are generally classified into red-green (the most common of all), blue-yellow, and total color blindness. Each of these has sub-classifications according to characteristics in the perception of the spectrum. For example, four are distinguished in the red-green, two in the blue-yellow and two in the suit.

For all this it is wrong to say that it is a homogeneous condition. Not all people who are color blind are created equal, so not everyone appreciates color the same way. Second The experts, only 1 in 30,000 people develop achromatopsia, the full variant of the condition.

Causes of color blindness

We have already explained the mechanism by which the discrepancy in color perception is created. Now, why does this imbalance occur? Broadly speaking, we can determine two processes: one acquired and one inherited. Acquired color blindness describes the manifestation of the condition from environmental causes or disease; while the inherited is due to a genetic predisposition. Let’s see it in more detail.

genetic diseases

He congenital color blindness describes those deficiencies in color perception that were inherited from parents. It is more common in men and most cases correspond to red-green deficiencies. Patients usually have a stable condition (does not get better or gets worse) and usually affects both eyeballs.

Taking some medications

Taking some medications can cause mild or moderate color blindness. Some drugs used to treat nervous disorders, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, infections, and mental disorders can predispose some patients to developing it. For example, it’s known for decades that ethambutol can generate it (it is used to treat tuberculosis).

age progression

Our vision naturally deteriorates as we age. Thus, the ability of the cones to distinguish the wavelengths of colors is reduced. This is why some patients develop the condition as a result of aging, with no other cause involved.

infections or diseases

Some underlying diseases can impair the ability to perceive or interpret colors. Patients diagnosed with glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, macular degeneration, diabetes, sickle cell disease, and chronic alcoholism can experience this eye condition.

Chemical exposure

These products can be those contained in fertilizers, for example. Exposure to some toxic chemicals can temporarily or permanently impair the ability to distinguish colors.

color blindness symptoms

If you have the congenital condition, you probably don’t know it. This happens in principle when it manifests itself slightly, since all your life you have interpreted the world with the slightest difference in the shade of some colors.

The most common form is red-green color blindness. Therefore, you may have difficulty distinguishing these colors from each other (it can be mild, moderate or severe). Differentiating the red and green of a traffic light is often not an easy task for a color blind person with this type.

Most people with color blindness get used to their perception and create automatic relationships with color-objects. For example, they know grass is green because they have learned that it is; although in practice they may not be competent to differentiate it.

Colors may appear less saturated, sharp, or bright. This also happens with blue-yellow color blindness. The total variant is very rare, and is characterized by the fact that patients cannot distinguish any color. Essentially, you perceive your reality in different shades of gray.

treatment options

Some types of color blindness can be treated
Once the cause of your color blindness has been determined, your eye doctor will be able to suggest curative treatment or indicate what options are available to improve your quality of life.

Acquired color blindness can be reversed by treating the underlying disease, the infectious process, prescribing different medications, and so on. At least in most cases, since in some the collateral damage is permanent. The hereditary condition has no cure, although alternatives exist to make patients’ daily lives easier.

For example, there are mobile applications and special glasses that help distinguish colors. Although they do not allow perfect vision, they are of great help when overcoming the barrier of color blindness. Dozens of tools can be downloaded from Google Play and the App Store that help people with color blindness appreciate how a person without their condition distinguishes colors (and vice versa).

In practice, most people with color blindness find a way to deal with the condition.. Learn color patterns (such as the order of these in traffic lights), label their clothes, distinguish further color factors, and so on. It is a limiting condition in many ways, but with some effort it should not condition all the patient’s life experiences.

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