Color blindness is usually an inherited condition that makes it difficult to differentiate among shades of colors. Color blindness, or color deficiency, happens when the cones of the eye are missing specific light sensitive pigments.
Research suggests that color blindness is most prevalent in Caucasian males.
There are different types of color blindness, including red-green, blue-yellow, and complete color blindness.
In this article, we will explore what causes color blindness, the different types of color blindness, and what colorblind people see. We’ll also suggest some strategies for coping with everyday activities when you have color blindness.
Humans have three types of light-sensing cones in the eyes: red, blue, and green. With color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency, the pigments in these cones may be dysfunctional or missing. In these cases, the eyes have trouble differentiating between different colors. This leads to color blindness.
Although there are some nongenetic causes of this condition, the primary cause of color blindness is genetics. Color blindness results from an X-linked recessive gene that can pass down from a parent to a child on the X chromosome.
Color blindness is, therefore, statistically more likely to affect males, who only need to have one X chromosome with the gene on it to have the condition.
Each type of color blindness has a different effect on how your eyes see color.
Red-green color blindness
Red-green color blindness is the most common form of the condition. This type of color blindness makes it difficult to differentiate between shades of red and green. There are four types of red-green color blindness:
- Deuteranomaly occurs when the M-cones (medium wavelength cones) of the eye are present but dysfunctional. It causes green to look redder.
- Protanomaly happens when the L-cones (long wavelength cones) of the eye are present but dysfunctional. It causes red to look greener.
- Protanopia occurs when the L-cones of the eye are missing. Missing M-cones are responsible for deuteranopia. Both conditions cause trouble differentiating between red and green.
Blue-yellow color blindness
Blue-yellow color blindness is less common than red-green color blindness, though red-green color blindness often accompanies it. With this type of color blindness, you have trouble differentiating between blue and green, as well as between yellow and red.
- Tritanomaly occurs when the S-cones (short wavelength cones) of the eye are present but dysfunctional. If you have tritanomaly, blue and green will look alike, and red and yellow will look alike.
- Tritanopia occurs when the S-cones of the eye are missing, which causes colors to look dampened. It also makes it difficult to differentiate between colors with attributes of blue and yellow, such as green, purple, red, and pink.
Complete color blindness
Complete color blindness is rare. This type of color blindness, also called achromatopsia, occurs when all the cones of the eye are either dysfunctional or missing.
Some experts consider another type of color blindness, blue cone monochromacy, to be a form of achromatopsia since it involves a partial or total lack of color vision.
What you’ll see in images if you have color blindness depends entirely on its type and severity. If you have red-green color blindness, you’ll generally have more color acuity than you would if you had blue-yellow or complete color blindness.
Below are a few examples of how images might look with each of the types of color blindness.
Normal vision vs. protanopia
If you have protanopia, you’re “red-blind,” which makes red colors look greener and darker.
Normal vision vs. deuteranopia
If you have deuteranopia, you’re “green-blind,” which makes green colors look redder. The results appear similar to protanopia, though red colors appear less dark.
Normal vision vs. tritanopia
If you have tritanopia, you’re “blue-blind” and have trouble differentiating among blue-associated colors.
Normal vision vs. achromatopsia
If you have complete achromatopsia, you have monochromatic vision, which makes everything look like different hues of gray.
Having color blindness can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks, especially those that require color differentiation. Some daily activities that color blindness can affect include:
- choosing clothes
- cooking food
- using electronic devices
However, it’s usually possible to lead a relatively normal life with color blindness once you’ve made some adjustments to your daily routine.
Here are some strategies for how to cope with color blindness in your everyday life:
- Change the lighting in your home. Color vision doesn’t function in the dark, so having a dark environment can make it more difficult to see colors, especially with color blindness. If you have trouble navigating around your home or at work during the day, consider using daylight bulbs to help brighten things up.
- Memorize certain daily necessities. Having color blindness can make tasks like driving much more difficult. Memorizing the position of stoplights and the look of certain road signs can help keep you safe on the road, even if you have trouble seeing colors.
- Utilize labeling systems. If you’re colorblind, it can be hard to perform everyday tasks like choosing outfits or dressing for particular occasions. Creating systems, such as color labeling, can help make daily tasks like this much easier.
- Rely on your other senses. Sight is only one of the five senses that we have. Even without it, we still have smell, taste, touch, and hearing. For other activities that usually benefit from color differentiation, such as cooking meals or choosing fresh fruits, you can rely on your other senses to guide you through the process.
- Take advantage of accessibility options. Many electronics offer accessibility options that can help people with disabilities navigate them more easily. Changing the options on your phone or TV can help make it easier to enjoy these electronics, even with color blindness. In addition, there are some apps on the market that you can download to help with color distinguishing during certain tasks.
Although there’s no cure for color blindness, many people with this condition enjoy fulfilling lives.
Some people have even benefited from using experimental treatments for their conditions. For example, the use of EnChroma Glasses has restored partial color vision for some people with color blindness, which can make daily tasks easier.
If you have partial color blindness, visit your doctor to discuss the treatment options that may be available to you.
Color blindness is a common hereditary condition that primarily affects males, although it can also affect females. There are several types of color blindness, and these differ depending on which cones of the eyes are dysfunctional or missing.
The most common type of color blindness is red-green color blindness, with blue-yellow color blindness following it. Complete color blindness is a much rarer form of color blindness.
If you have color blindness, making small changes to your daily routine can help improve life with this condition.