How Does Color Blindness Work? By Gordon Wong, OD on January 11, 2024

vegetables with little color contrast

Have you been accused of wearing clashing colors when they look totally fine to you? Is someone in your family color blind? Whether you’ve had a nagging sensation your whole life or have recently experienced changes to your vision, it might be helpful to know what color blindness is and how it works

At our office serving La JollaCarmel Valley, and greater San DiegoCA, this is a topic that comes up from time to time. We’re able to screen for and treat this concern, in addition to a range of eye conditions. In this article, we’ll discuss the types and causes of color blindness. We’ll also cover how its effects can be treated or managed in your day-to-day life.

Types of Color Blindness

It might surprise you to learn that there are three types of color blindness or color vision deficiencies. People might have trouble telling different colors apart or they might appear less bright than normal. They could also have trouble distinguishing shades of the same color.

Red/Green Color Vision Deficiency

The most common type of color blindness involves difficulty distinguishing red from green. The trouble someone has telling the two apart can vary substantially so it may or may not affect their everyday life.

Yellow/Blue Color Vision Deficiency

Sufferers of the yellow/blue variation of color blindness have similar struggles but their ability to detect red and green are not affected.

Complete Color Vision Deficiency

In cases of complete color vision deficiency, people cannot detect colors at all and they might also experience sensitivity to light. Known as monochromacy or achromatopsia, this condition is very rare. 

Risk Factors and Diagnosing Color Blindness

Color vision deficiency is more common in white men and tends to run in families. Other risk factors include: 

  • Having diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis
  • Having certain eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration
  • Taking medications such as an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis and the antipsychotic medications chlorpromazine and thioridazine
  • Experiencing retinal injuries or other types of trauma to the eye

The only way to know for sure whether you’re color-blind is to schedule an appointment at our La Jolla office. During this visit, we will ask about any concerns you have and review your health history and medications. We can also administer a color vision test. For example, some individuals might be able to clearly see a number on an Ishihara color test plate (consisting of a large number of tightly packed, colored dots) whereas others might not. 

Is Color Blindness Treatable?

In some cases, such as temporary color blindness due to cataracts or medication, our patients will be able to regain full vision. In others, the effects can only be managed.

Fortunately, technology to help those with color blindness is advancing at a rapid pace. In the past, you could memorize the order of the traffic lights and label your clothing (still helpful tips!) Now, though, individuals can consider using special glasses and contacts that increase the contrast between colors to make them easier to differentiate. There are also phone apps that display the names of colors when you use your camera to point at an object and tap on the screen.

Schedule a Consultation With Our Team

Do you think you’re suffering from color blindness? In pronounced cases, it can impact your safety and independence. Schedule an appointment at our La Jolla optometrist’s office today to learn more.

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GW Eye Associates

Our team at GW Eye Associates in La Jolla and Del Mar can provide a wide range of high-quality eye care services. Dr. Gordon G. Wong and Dr. Wildon C. Wong have over 45 years of combined experience and belong to several prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Optometric Association

For more information about our services, contact our office online or call us at (858) 454-4699 today.

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