All About Color Blindness in Men

Color blindness in men is not a form of blindness at all, but a deficiency in the way. If you are colorblind, you have difficulty distinguishing certain colors, like blue and yellow or red and green

All About Color Blindness in Men

Color blindness in men is not a form of blindness at all, but a deficiency in the way. If you are colorblind, you have difficulty distinguishing certain colors, like blue and yellow or red and green

Color blindness in men is not a form of blindness at all, but a deficiency in the way. If you are colorblind, you have difficulty distinguishing certain colors, like blue and yellow or red and green. Color blindness or color vision deficiency is an inherited condition that affects males more frequently than females. An estimated 8 percent of males and less than 1 percent of females have color vision problems. Red-green color deficiency is the most common form of color blindness.

Color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency, is the decreased ability to see color or differences in color. Simple tasks such as selecting ripe fruit, choosing clothing, and reading traffic lights can be more challenging. Color blindness may also make some educational activities more difficult. However, problems are generally minor, and most people find that they can adapt. People with total color blindness i.e. achromatopsia may also have decreased visual acuity and be uncomfortable in bright environments.

The most common cause of color blindness in men is an inherited problem in the development of one or more of the three sets of color-sensing cones in the eye. Males are more likely to be color blind than females, as the genes responsible for the most common forms of color blindness are on the X chromosome. There is no cure for color blindness. Diagnosis may allow a person's teacher to change their method of teaching to accommodate the decreased ability to recognize colors. Special lenses may help people with red-green color blindness when under bright conditions.

Facts about Color Blindness

  • Color blindness is not gender blind. In fact it is much more common among men. It affects 1 in every 12 males but less than 1 in every 200 females.
  • Facebook is blue because its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, suffers from red-green color blindness.
  • In true color blindness facts, people are “color blind” only if they see just black and gray. The more common condition is “color vision deficiency,” where greens and reds can look confusing.
  • Color blindness is hereditary, and is passed from mother to son. However, it can also be caused by eye diseases, aging or retina damage.
  • In World War II, color blind men were considered to have an advantage since their inability to see green helped them to see through camouflage.
  • Dogs, cats and rabbits see mostly gray. Monkeys have strong color vision while bees and butterflies have superior vision and can see colors humans can’t even see.
  • Not a lot of people, but some, suffer from a rare form of color blindness called unilateral dichromacy which means they have one normal seeing-eye, and one color blind eye.
  • Not all animals see color the same way. In fact, most mammals, including dogs, see fewer colors than humans do. The rods and cones in our eyes contain photopigment molecules that change their composition when exposed to light. Some animals have more of these molecules than others. So while dogs only have two photopigment types, humans typically have three. But butterflies can have more than three, enabling them to see colors we could only dream about.

Causes of Color Blindness

Color blindness in men occurs when light-sensitive cells in the retina fail to respond appropriately to variations in wavelengths of light that enable people to see an array of colors. Photoreceptors in the retina are called rods and cones. Rods are more plentiful and they are more sensitive to light, but rods are incapable of perceiving color. The 6 to 7 million cones in the human retina are responsible for color vision, and these photoreceptors are concentrated in the central zone of the retina called the macula. The center of the macula is called the fovea, and this tiny (0.3 mm diameter) area contains the highest concentration of cones in the retina and is responsible for our most acute color vision. Inherited forms of color blindness often are related to deficiencies in certain types of cones or outright absence of these cones.

Color blindness is a usually a genetic condition. Red/green and blue color blindness is usually passed down from your parents. The gene which is responsible for the condition is carried on the X chromosome and this is the reason why many more men are affected than women. The inheritance process is explained in more detail in the section Inherited Color Vision Deficiency. The effects of color vision deficiency can be mild, moderate or severe depending upon the defect. If you have inherited color blindness your condition will stay the same throughout your life – it won’t get any better or worse.

The exact physical causes of color blindness in men are still being researched but it is believed that color blindness is usually caused by faulty cones but sometimes by a fault in the pathway from the cone to the brain. People with normal color vision have all three types of cone/pathway working correctly but color blindness occurs when one or more of the cone types are faulty. Most people with color blindness can’t distinguish certain shades of red and green. Some other causes of color vision defects or loss include:

  • Parkinson's disease - Because Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder, light-sensitive nerve cells in the retina where vision processing occurs may be damaged and cannot function properly.
  • Cataracts - Clouding of the eye's natural lens that occurs with cataracts can "wash out" color vision, making it much less bright. Fortunately, cataract surgery can restore bright color vision when the cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens.
  • Certain medications - For example, an anti-seizure drug called tiagabine has been shown to reduce color vision in about 41 percent of those taking the drug, although effects do not appear to be permanent.
  • Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) - This type of inherited optic neuropathy can affect even carriers who don't have other symptoms but do have a degree of color blindness. Red-green color vision defects primarily are noted with this condition.
  • Kallman's syndrome - This inherited condition involves failure of the pituitary gland, which can lead to incomplete or unusual gender-related development such as of sexual organs. Color blindness can be one symptom of this condition.

Color blindness also can occur when aging processes damage retinal cells. An injury or damage to areas of the brain where vision processing takes place also can cause color vision deficiencies.

Symptoms of Color Blindness

Do you have difficulty telling if colors are blue and yellow, or red and green? Do other people sometimes inform you that the color you think you are seeing is wrong? If so, these are primary signs that you have a color vision deficiency.

Most people who are considered "color blind" can see colors, but certain colors appear washed out and are easily confused with other colors, depending on the type of color vision deficiency they have. If you develop color vision problems when normally you have been able to see a full range of color, then you definitely should visit your doctor. Sudden or gradual loss of color vision can indicate any number of underlying health problems, such as cataracts.

Treatment for Color Blindness

There is currently no treatment for inherited color blindness. Color filters or contact lenses can be used in some situations to enhance the brightness between some colors and these are occasionally used in the workplace, but many color blind people find these actually confuse them further rather than help.

There is hope on the horizon for a ‘cure’ for inherited color vision deficiency using gene technology. This will involve injecting genetic material into the eye. For acquired color vision deficiency, once the cause has been established and treated, your vision may return to normal.

Lenses for color blindness

Some people use special lenses to enhance color perception, which are filters available in either contact lens or eyeglass lens form.

Apps for your cellphone or tablet computer can tell you what color something is. You take a photo, and when you tap on a place in the image, the app tells you the color. Some apps can even tell shades of colors. If you have red-green colorblindness, special lenses may let you see colors more clearly.

If you’re colorblind, it can help to ask someone to help you put labels on your clothes that tell you what color they are, so you can choose things that match. Arrange your closet so that clothes you can wear together hang close to one another. You also might memorize the order of colors in various objects, like traffic lights.

If your colorblindness started because of a disease or is a side effect of prescription medicines, you might be able to do something about it. For example, your doctor might be able to prescribe a different drug. But the main kind of colorblindness, the type you inherit from your parents, can’t be corrected.

Researchers are looking for ways to treat the kind of colorblindness you get through your genes by helping the cones work better. Tests on animals have been promising, and tests on people, called clinical trials, are going on now.

Allie Leon, Chief Fun Officer

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