What is Colour Blindness?

Colour blindness is a condition when the perception of colours for a person is different from what a normal human eye perceives. A person may even be unaware of the condition, until tested clinically. Colour blindness is fairly prevalent in India, with men being more prone than women.

Most people who are diagnosed colour blind can see colours but, certain colours may seem washed out or indistinguishable. The typical forms of colour blindness are:

  • Red-Green Colour blindness (most common)
  • Blue-Yellow Colour blindness
  • Total Colour Blindness (rare)
What are the telling signs?

Colour blindness can affect various dimensions of a person’s life.  Here are some of the most common impacts:

  • Especially troublesome for school going children who may be unable to read colour-coded information
  • Problems with food identification, reading labels on medicines and drugs
  • Trouble identifying traffic signals or safety warnings
  • Slightly limited career choices
  • Driving, especially at night
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What causes Colour Blindness?

Abnormal photopigments are the reason why a person may not be able to see certain colours, or be sensitive to some.  These photopigments, located in cone cells within the retina, determine colour sensitivity of an individual.

In majority of the cases reported, faulty genes are found to be the leading cause of colour blindness. Red-green colour blindness affects men more often than women. Blue-green colour blindness affects males and females equally.

Besides genetics and pigments, the following may also cause colour blindness:

  • Ageing
  • Diabetic retinopathy, Glaucoma, Cataract
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Leukaemia
  • Drugs (used for treating psychological problems, high blood pressure, heart disease etc.)
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals – such as Carbon di Sulphide and Styrene
  • Damage to the optic nerve, or parts of the brain that are involved in colour processing
Clinical Detections

To diagnose colour blindness, there are several tests that an ophthalmologist may conduct.

The Ishihara test is the most common one used for detecting red-green colour blindness. As a part of this procedure, patients are asked to look at plates consisting of circles made with dots of different sizes and colours. Some of these dots form shapes that are easily recognizable but, for a colour blind person, the shapes formed via red and green colours will either be hard to see or be completely invisible.

Colour arrangement test is another screening test conducted by ophthalmologists wherein a patient is asked to arrange coloured objects in order of their different shades.

A lot of other online screening tests and apps can be used for detection and management of colour blindness but, it is advisable to talk to an ophthalmologist for the best diagnosis and treatment.

Living with Colour Blindness

While there is no known cure for colour blindness, some measures can be taken to ease the situation. Some of these measures are:

  • Wearing contact lens/ eyeglasses with colour filter
  • In case of colour blind children, informing their school about their condition
  • Seeking help from friends and family for tasks that one may have difficulty in completing
  • Enhancing lighting in your home or workplace, if possible
  • Making use of gadgets that help in colour identification

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