Understanding Colorblindness

If you can't see the number, you might be suffering from colorblindness.

Color blindness is the decreased ability to see certain colors or changes in color. It is also known as color deficiency. People who are colorblind have difficulty in seeing red, green, or blue colors and distinguishing the differences between these colors.

Data shows that 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women worldwide are colorblind. This equates to approximately 300 million people around the world who are colorblind. 

What causes color blindness?

Your retinas contain around 7 million light-sensitive photoreceptors known as cones. Cones are located in the macula of your retina, and they are responsible for your color vision.

For the vast majority of people, color blindness is genetic or hereditary. Genetic colorblindness causes either defects in the cones or a total absence of cones.

Mutations in the X chromosome seem to have a causal link to red-green color blindness. This is why color blindness is more prevalent in men than in women.

According to Johns Hopkins University’s Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man database, there are at least 19 different chromosomes and 56 genes that can cause color blindness. This makes it difficult to pinpoint one chromosome or gene as the cause.

However, color blindness can also be acquired instead of genetic. The leading cause of acquired color blindness occurs when your eyes are overly exposed to ultraviolet light as a child. Trauma that causes inflammation in your brain’s occipital lobe can also lead to color blindness.

Certain diseases and degenerative conditions can also trigger color blindness. Individuals with age-related macular degeneration or retinal damage caused by diabetes may also develop color blindness.

What are the different types of color blindness?

There are three main types of colorblindness, namely:

  • Red-green color blindness

This is the most common type of color blindness. Red-green color blindness makes it difficult for people to see red and color or tell the difference between the two.

  • Blue-yellow color blindness

Blue-yellow color blindness is the second most common type of color blindness. People with this type of color blindness find it hard to distinguish between blue and green, between yellow and red, between purple and red, or between yellow and pink

  • Complete color blindness (monochromacy)

This is the rarest type of color blindness. Complete color blindness is the total inability to see any colors. For people who have complete color blindness, the world is literally black and white.

What are the symptoms of color blindness?

Symptoms of color blindness are typically revealed during early childhood. Parents may notice that their toddler has difficulty recognizing different colors. 

However, color blindness may also go un-diagnosed until adulthood. The most obvious symptom is the ability to see some colors but not others, or the inability to distinguish between two different colors. 

The extent of an individual’s color vision deficiency depends upon the type and severity of their color blindness.

What are the disadvantages of color blindness?

Color blindness is by no means a serious illness, and colorblind individuals can learn to adapt to their condition with little issue. That being said, there are some slight disadvantages to living with color blindness. 

Cooking can be frustrating if you have red-green color blindness since telling when meat is cooked can be next to impossible. Distinguishing between ripe and unripe tomatoes can be difficult as well. It can also be a challenge to identify the green and red lights on modern traffic lights.

Color blindness can also make doing certain jobs difficult or altogether impossible. Being in the fashion or art industry can be problematic since your work involves colors so you have to be able to tell the difference between them.

For people who are colorblind, certain military positions are out of the question. Colorblind individuals are automatically disqualified from US military flying positions such as pilots, weapons system operators, flight surgeons, and flight nurses.

However, civilian flight requirements are less stringent. Flying a commercial aircraft is still an option even if you’re colorblind.

Some engineering specialties require individuals to work with colored wiring. As such, differentiating between them is crucial.


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Wrap up

Color blindness is the decreased ability to see certain colors or tell the differences between these colors.

There are three types of color blindness: 1) red-green color blindness, 2) blue-yellow color blindness, and 3) complete color blindness.

Although symptoms generally manifest during early childhood, color blindness can go un-diagnosed even in adulthood, especially if the color blindness isn’t severe.

Color blindness can impact a child’s ability to excel in school, disqualify adults from certain jobs, and make certain aspects of daily living bothersome. That being said, people with color blindness can learn how to adapt to their condition. In most cases, colorblind people can familiarize themselves with alternate clues to determine a particular color or tell the difference between two colors.

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