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What is Color Blindness?

by Mark Mattison-Shupnick October 26, 2018

What is Color Blindness?

Color. It affects every part of our lives. Color is emotional, experiential, and tactical. It gives art life. It entices us to eat certain foods and buy certain jewelry, and sometimes it literally defines these things. We also use color to interpret information such as signs and lights. It is deeply ingrained in our basic perception of the world. When the ability to see color is deficient, as in the case of color blindness, there is a dulling of what is seen; or one might say there is a dulling effect in how we see. EnChroma color blind glasses address this deficiency to not only enhance the ability to see color, but to enhance the way people interact with all that they see.

Color. It affects every part of our lives. Color is emotional, experiential, and tactical. It gives art life. It entices us to eat certain foods and buy certain jewelry, and sometimes it literally defines these things. We also use color to interpret information such as signs and lights. It is deeply ingrained in our basic perception of the world. When the ability to see color is deficient, as in the case of color blindness, there is a dulling of what is seen; or one might say there is a dulling effect in how we see. EnChroma color blind glasses address this deficiency to not only enhance the ability to see color, but to enhance the way people interact with all that they see.

So What Causes Color Blindness?

Our eyes have two kinds of specialized light receptors (rods and cones) located in the retina in the back layer of the eye to help us see. Rods allow us to see in low light conditions, like at night. Cones allow us to see in bright light, like during the day—and convert light into color vision.

There are three kinds of cones that translate light into color, each with a range of sensitivity to blues, greens, and reds. If we look at the cones of a person with typical color vision, their cones will be arranged in a way that is slightly overlapping, as seen in the graph below. This allows them to see millions of colors. In people with color blindness, there is a greater overlap, sometimes excessive, of the red and green cones.

Our eyes have two kinds of specialized light receptors (rods and cones) located in the retina in the back layer of the eye to help us see. Rods allow us to see in low light conditions, like at night. Cones allow us to see in bright light, like during the day—and convert light into color vision.

There are three kinds of cones that translate light into color, each with a range of sensitivity to blues, greens, and reds. If we look at the cones of a person with typical color vision, their cones will be arranged in a way that is slightly overlapping, as seen in the graph below. This allows them to see millions of colors. In people with color blindness, there is a greater overlap, sometimes excessive, of the red and green cones.

Approximately 300 million people worldwide have some form of color vision deficiency.

Approximately 300 million people worldwide have some form of color vision deficiency.

what is color blindness
Color Cone Sensitivity

When the curve of the cone sensitive to greens shifts its sensitivity to the right, it causes an excessive overlap of the green and red making the green cone act more like a red cone. Because this cone is no longer sensitive to the greens and other wavelengths that help to make up more colors, this reduces the colors seen and causes a dullness in the way the world's colors appear. Instead of responding separately to reds and greens, the red and green cones’ responses are highly similar. This result is color confusion between specific colors, including blue versus purple, and green versus brown, yellow, orange, and red. That’s why some people with color blindness may have trouble discerning the red and green in traffic lights. The more the cone’s sensitivity shifts, the more color confusion ensues.

When the curve of the cone sensitive to greens shifts its sensitivity to the right, it causes an excessive overlap of the green and red making the green cone act more like a red cone. Because this cone is no longer sensitive to the greens and other wavelengths that help to make up more colors, this reduces the colors seen and causes a dullness in the way the world's colors appear. Instead of responding separately to reds and greens, the red and green cones’ responses are highly similar. This result is color confusion between specific colors, including blue versus purple, and green versus brown, yellow, orange, and red. That’s why some people with color blindness may have trouble discerning the red and green in traffic lights. The more the cone’s sensitivity shifts, the more color confusion ensues.

Is Red-Green Color Blindness Hereditary?

Yes, red-green color blindness is a genetic condition. 1 in 12 men have this common form of color blindness, while only 1 in 200 women have it. That’s because the genes responsible for this type of color blindness are located on the X chromosome, and men have only one X chromosome. If the recessive trait is present, they are color blind. A woman must have this recessive trait on both of her X chromosomes to be color blind. If on only one, then being recessive it doesn’t affect her but she can pass this onto a male child. Some types of color blindness increase with age or develop as a symptom of certain diseases or exposure to toxins like mercury.

Yes, red-green color blindness is a genetic condition. 1 in 12 men have this common form of color blindness, while only 1 in 200 women have it. That’s because the genes responsible for this type of color blindness are located on the X chromosome, and men have only one X chromosome. If the recessive trait is present, they are color blind. A woman must have this recessive trait on both of her X chromosomes to be color blind. If on only one, then being recessive it doesn’t affect her but she can pass this onto a male child. Some types of color blindness increase with age or develop as a symptom of certain diseases or exposure to toxins like mercury.

An estimated 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are color blind. As a result, approximately 95% of color blind individuals are male.

An estimated 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are color blind. As a result, approximately 95% of color blind individuals are male.

More Resourches

To learn more about the different types of color blindness, check out our Types of Color Blindness page.

Our EnChroma Color Blind Test is specifically designed to determine your type of color blindness. Take the test and find out if you’re color blind.

To learn more about the different types of color blindness, check out our Types of Color Blindness page.

Our EnChroma Color Blind Test is specifically designed to determine your type of color blindness. Take the test and find out if you’re color blind.

Share your story and join the #EnChroma community!




Mark Mattison-Shupnick
Mark Mattison-Shupnick

Author

EnChroma VP, Business Development, Master Optician, collector of antique eyewear, avid cyclist, curious about anything eyewear.
Favorite EnChroma frame: Solano



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