What is Color Blindness & What Causes it?

What is color blindness or color deficiency, does it effect men and women equally, what colors does it prevent people from seeing and what are the causes of it?

What is Color Blindness?

Color Blindness & Causes

People who suffer with color blindness or (color vision deficiency) are not actually completely blind to color. This is why the term Color Deficiency is more accurate. People who suffer with color deficiency just have difficulty seeing or differentiating between certain colors, this includes difficulty detecting differences of shades and subtle changes.

Color blindness is usually genetically inherited, often it is passed on from our parents. It’s also a condition that is far more common in men than women. The data suggests around 7 – 8 percent of men suffer with color blindness, while only 1 percent of women are effected by the condition.

Difficulty detecting colors red and green is the most common type of color deficiency. The second most common color deficiency is with detecting blue and yellow.

The Myth of Color Blindness

The most common myth about color blindness is that those who suffer with it can only see in varying shades of gray and in black and white. This would be considered complete color blindness, and it is very rare. The vast majority will just have a deficiency detecting certain colors and differing shades of those colors.

Types of Color Blindness

  • Deuteranopia – Red – Green Color Deficiency. While red and green are the primary colors effected, it also means there is a deficiency with colors that derive from red and green.
  • Tritanopia – Blue – Yellow Color Deficiency. While it’s suggested it’s a blue and yellow color deficiency, this is actually misleading, because it’s just the cones that detect the short wavelengths (Blue) which are absent with this condition.
  • Monochromacy – Complete Color Blindness. Those that suffer with this will only see black, white and various shades of gray.

Difficulty detecting different colors can cause a few issues that most of us take for granted. For example warning lights, including traffic lights, difficulty detecting the color of food, this can be problematic when trying to determine if food is ripe or properly cooked. It can also cause problems in education and learning in general. Color code systems are also often used in the work place, which will be an obvious disadvantage to anyone who has a color deficiency. Certain jobs will be unsuitable to those with a color deficiency.   

What Causes Color Blindness?

Color blindness is due to a problem with the light sensitive cells in the retina. The cells ability to detect and adjust to wavelengths, including variations of those wavelengths is reduced.

Spectrum Color Wavelengths

Our retinas are made up out of two different types of photoreceptors, these are cones and rods. It’s the cones that are able to detect wavelengths (colors). Those that have a problem with color blindness or color deficiency is down to an absence or deficiency of the cone photoreceptors.

Studies suggest that the causes of color deficiency is linked to the X chromosome, and women have two copies of the X chromosome. This is why color blindness is much less common in women. Women can carry the genetic fault while not suffering with any color vision problems. However it will be passed down, likely affecting future males in the family.

Developing Color Blindness Later in Life

Generally color blindness is a genetic condition that people are born with. However it can also develop later in life, this can be for a number of different reasons. It could potentially indicate a developing health problem such as cataracts.

There are also a few other medical conditions and diseases which can cause problems with the color detecting photoreceptor cells (cones). So if this happens it would be recommended to visit an eye specialist or doctor.

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