What Does It Mean To Live With Colour Blindness?

In the UK approximately 8% of men and 4.5% of the entire population live with colour blindness. That’s 2.7 million people.

For the majority this is hereditary, usually passed on from the mother. However it is possible to acquire colour blindness at some point in your life due to an illness such as multiple sclerosis or diabetes.

Different Types of Colour Blindness

Image credits: Eldin Tux

Protamaly

This is where a person is unable to ‘see’ the colour red.

Deuteranomaly

This is where a person is unable to ‘see’ the colour green.

The most common type of colour blindness is where a person has reduced sensitivity to either red or green, or both. While they are two separate types of colour blindness, they are very similar and are often grouped together to be called ‘red/green’ colour blindness.

This means that they will mix up all colours that have an element of either red or green. For example, they find it difficult to distinguish between blue and purple, as they cannot ‘see’ the red element of the purple colour.

But the problems are across the whole colour spectrum, and testing has found that people with red/green colour blindness can only accurately identify 5 out of a 24 standard box of coloured pencils.

Tritanomaly

While rare, there are also cases where there is a reduced sensitivity to the colour blue. Here they mix blues and yellows, purples and reds and blues and greens.

With this type of colour blindness people see the world is a range of reds, pinks, black, white and turquoises.

Monochromacy

In very rare occasions people are not able to see the any colour at all.

Diagnosis

 

It can be extremely difficult to diagnose colour blindness. Especially because there are different levels of severity, and while one person’s colour blindness may affect their life, another person may only have an extremely mild version.

It is particularly difficult with children, as they learn to associate different colours with objects from a young age (they know, for example, that the grass is green, and roses are red) even if they have no concept of their true colours.

There is an easy way to test yourself at home to see if you have red/green colour blindness. It’s called the Ishihara Plate and it pairs the colours that people with colour blindness have difficulty distinguishing. Can you see anything in the circles below?

Image credits: Deliriumincarnate

There are similar, but more sophisticated tests that are undertaken during the recruitment process of many jobs such as train drivers, RAF pilots and other jobs where it is very important to be able to distinguish between red and green.

If you’re concerned that you may have colour blindness, visit your Optician and they will be able to test your vision.

Treatment

Unfortunately there has been no treatment found for hereditary colour blindness. However in many cases where it has been acquired, once the cause has been found and treated, vision has returned to normal.

There are colour filter glasses and contact lenses available to enhance colour perception. But not many people have found these helpful, and most actually reported further confusion.

The level in severity of colour blindness is hugely varied. Up to 40% of people can leave secondary school completely unaware that they have it, while the other 60% may experience issues in their everyday life.

Again, the severity of issues that colour blindness can affect varies considerably, from not knowing if a meat is cooked raw or well done, to not being able to read the LED display on an electrical good to see if it’s on or off.

If you’re interested in more information about colour blindness, the Colour Blindness Awareness website is a great place to start.

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  •  License: Royalty Free or iStock source: www.photobucket.com

Steph has a strong interest in science, and enjoys writing about biology. She works at Lenstore.co.uk, and online contact lens retailer.

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