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Color blindness means that you have trouble seeing red, green, or blue or a mix of these colors. It's rare that a person sees no color at all.
Color blindness is also called a color vision problem.
A color vision problem can change your life. It may make it harder to learn and read, and you may not be able to have certain careers. But children and adults with color vision problems can learn to make up for their problems seeing color.
Most color vision problems are inherited (genetic) and are present at birth.
People usually have three types of cone cells in the eye. Each type senses either red, green, or blue light. You see color when your cone cells sense different amounts of these three basic colors. The highest concentration of cone cells are found in the macula, which is the central part of the retina.
Inherited color blindness happens when you don't have one of these types of cone cells or they don't work right. You may not see one of these three basic colors, or you may see a different shade of that color or a different color. This type of color vision problem doesn't change over time.
A color vision problem isn't always inherited. In some cases, a person can have an acquired color vision problem. This can be caused by:
The symptoms of color vision problems vary:
Tests measure how well you recognize different colors.
Because a color vision problem can have a big impact on a person's life, it is important to detect the problem as early as possible. In children, color vision problems can affect learning abilities and reading development. And color vision problems may limit career choices that require you to tell colors apart. Most experts recommend eye exams for children between ages 3 and 5. Vision screening is recommended for all children at least once before entering school, preferably between the ages of 3 and 4.
Inherited color vision problems cannot be treated or corrected.
For the most common type of color blindness-red-green color deficiency-no treatment is needed, because you function normally. You may not be aware that you do not see colors the way they are seen by others.
Some acquired color vision problems can be treated, depending on the cause. For example, if a cataract is causing a problem with color vision, surgery to remove the cataract may restore normal color vision.
You can find ways to help make up for a color vision problem, such as:
Color vision problems may make it harder for children to learn and read, which can lead to poor schoolwork and low self-esteem.
You can help your child these ways.
American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. (2016). Policy statement: Visual system assessment in infants, children, and young adults by pediatricians. Pediatrics, 137(1): 28-30. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-3596. Accessed March 6, 2017.
Other Works Consulted
Chang DF (2011). Ophthalmologic examinations. In P Riordan-Eva, ET Cunningham, eds., Vaughan and Asbury's General Ophthalmology, 18th ed., pp. 27-57. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Fletcher EC, et al. (2011). Retina. In P Riordan-Eva, JP Whitcher, eds., Vaughan and Asbury's General Ophthalmology, 18th ed., pp. 190-221. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Neitz J, et al. (2011). Color vision. In LA Levin et al., eds., Adler's Physiology of the Eye, 11th ed., pp. 648-654. New York: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerChristopher Joseph Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Current as ofDecember 3, 2017
Current as of:
December 3, 2017
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Christopher Joseph Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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