Color blindness may be a hereditary
condition or caused by disease of the optic nerve or retina. Acquired
color vision problems only affect the eye with the disease and may
become progressively worse over time. Patients with a color vision
defect caused by disease usually have trouble discriminating blues and
Inherited color blindness is most common, affects both eyes, and
does not worsen over time. This type is found in about 8% of males and
0.4% of females. These color problems are linked to the X chromosome and
are almost always passed from a mother to her son.
Color blindness may be partial (affecting only some colors), or
complete (affecting all colors). Complete color blindness is very rare.
Those who are completely color blind often have other serious eye
problems as well.
Photoreceptors called cones allow us to
appreciate color. These are concentrated in the very center of the
retina and contain three photosensitive pigments: red, green and blue.
Those with defective color vision have a deficiency or absence in one or
more of these pigments. Those with normal color vision are referred to
as trichromats. People with a deficiency in one of the pigments are
called anomalous trichromats (the most common type of color vision
problem.) A dichromat has a complete absence in one cone pigment.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The symptoms of color blindness are dependent
on several factors, such as whether the problem is congenital, acquired,
partial, or complete.
• Difficulty distinguishing reds and greens
• Difficulty distinguishing blues and greens (less
The symptoms of more serious inherited color vision problems
and some types acquired problems may include:
• Objects appear as
various shades of gray (this occurs with complete color blindness and is
• Reduced vision
DETECTION AND DIAGNOSIS
Color vision deficiency is most commonly detected with special colored
charts called the Ishihara Test Plates. On each plate is a number
composed of colored dots. While holding the chart under good lighting,
the patient is asked to identify the number. Once the color defect is
identified, more detailed color vision tests may be performed.
There is no treatment or cure for color blindness.
Those with mild color deficiencies learn to associate colors with
certain objects and are usually able to identify color as everyone else.
However, they are unable to appreciate color in the same way as those
with normal color vision.