Color Blindness

What Is Color Blindness?

Most of us share a common color vision sensory experience. Some people, however, have a color vision deficiency, which means their perception of colors is different from what most of us see. The most severe forms of these deficiencies are referred to as color blindness.  People with color blindness aren’t aware of differences among colors that are obvious to the rest of us.  People who don’t have the more severe types of color blindness may not even be aware of their condition unless they’re tested in a clinic or laboratory.

Inherited color blindness is caused by abnormal photopigments.  These color-detecting molecules are located in cone-shaped cells within the retina, called cone cells.  In humans, several genes are needed for the body to make photopigments, and defects in these genes can lead to color blindness.

There are three main kinds of color blindness, based on photopigment defects in the three different kinds of cones that respond to blue, green, and red light.  Red-green color blindness is the most common, followed by blue-yellow color blindness. A complete absence of color vision, total color blindness, is rare.

Sometimes color blindness can be caused by physical or chemical damage to the eye, the optic nerve, or parts of the brain that process color information. Color vision can also decline with age, most often because of cataract, which is a clouding and yellowing of the eye’s lens.

Who Gets Color Blindness?

As many as 8percent of men and 0.5 percent of women with Northern European ancestry have the common form of red-green color blindness.

Men are much more likely to be colorblind than women because the genes responsible for the most common, inherited color blindness are on the X chromosome.  Males only have one X chromosome, while females have two X chromosomes. In females, a functional gene on only one of the X chromosomes is enough to compensate for the loss on the other. This kind of inheritance pattern is called X-linked, and primarily affects males. Inherited color blindness can be present at birth, begin in childhood, or not appear until the adult years.

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