When orange becomes green: What is color blindness?

Jana Ismail

Senior Staff Writer


Contrary to popular belief, color blindness isn’t a form of blindness nor is it equivalent to seeing the world in shades of grey. Color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency or CVD, is a vision deficiency that leads to difficulty in differentiating certain colors such as blue and yellow or red and green.

Red-green color deficiency is the most common form of color blindness, whereas yellow-blue color deficiency is much rarer. Men are more likely to be color blind than women, according to the National Eye Institute, or NEI.

When it comes to rare forms of color vision deficiency, both males and females have equal chances of having it. Complete color blindness, meaning the total absence of color vision, is extremely rare.

Around 8 percent of the males in the world are color blind, whereas only 0.5 percent of the female population has color vision deficiency, according to the NEI. The reason why males are more prone to color blindness is because the genes responsible for the most commonly inherited type of color blindness are on the X chromosome.

Therefore, because females have two X chromosomes, a functional gene on one of them is enough for them not be color blind. For women to be color blind, they would require two genes responsible for the deficiency, one on each X chromosome, which rarely happens.

Color blindness is the result of the failure of light-sensitive cells to respond appropriately to the different wavelengths of light that allow people to see a variation of colors.

The inherited form of color blindness is often the result of a deficiency in some type of cones – one of two types of photoreceptors in the retina. Although color blindness is mostly genetic, it can also be the result of some illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Mundane everyday tasks, such as cooking meat, picking up ripe fruits or checking traffic lights become a challenge for those with color blindness. Most people with color blindness learn to adapt to the inconveniences that come with their conditions.

There are no known cures for color blindness. However, there are special lenses that allow people with red-green color blindness to see colors more accurately. Those lenses can only be used in certain conditions such as outdoors environments and in bright lighting.

Visual aids have also been developed to help people cope with color blindness. Some apps, available for both android and apple, even allow color blind people to take a picture and tap any area of the photo to see the actual color of it.

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