Colour Blindness

When a person is colour blind, they don’t suffer from loss of vision, but rather experience difficulty perceiving different colours.

Often termed colour vision deficiency, this condition can make it difficult to distinguish between certain colours, and it affects men more commonly than women. Those affected will, in most cases, have difficulty with red and green colours, but on occasion, the colour vision deficiency may result in it being hard to distinguish blue and yellow.

Make sure to see our colour-blindness videos below at the end of the article.

What Is Colour Blindness

Colour vision deficiency is a visual condition that makes it difficult to distinguish between different colours.

It is an inherited condition, meaning parents pass it on, and it is present in the affected child from birth. It may not become noticeable, however, until the child reaches school age, and begins to learn colours then undertakes tasks that require the correct identification of colour. Red-green is the most common type of colour vision deficiency, and according to the NHS, it affects one in 12 men compared to just one in 200 women.

With this deficiency, an individual may experience difficulty distinguishing between reds, oranges and browns, and may not be able to determine the saturation or vibrancy of these colours. They may also be unable to distinguish between different shades of purple. Although less common, blue-yellow colour vision deficiency can also occur. An individual suffering from this will have trouble with greens, yellows and blues.

While colour vision deficiency isn’t serious, it can cause difficulty with day-to-day activities such as determining whether food is cooked, or when learning at school. Certain vocations also require full colour recognition, meaning those with color vision impairment may not be able to pursue careers such as pilots or air traffic controllers. Generally speaking, this condition can be adapted to and those living with it don’t tend to experience any major real setbacks.

Causes Of Colour Blindness

When light enters the eye, it does so in different wavelengths, and it is the eye’s ability to correctly interpret these that enables us to see colour. Colour vision impairment is a genetic condition that occurs when the light-sensitive cells found in the retina of the eye fail to correct respond to variations in wavelengths of light.

The light-sensitive cells in the retina, known as photoreceptors, are called rods and cones. There are between six and seven million cones in the retina, while there are approximately 100 million rods. These rods may be more in number and have increased sensitivity to light, but they are not able to perceive colour, unlike cones. Cones are the photoreceptors that are responsible for identifying colour, and they are found in the macula, the central area of the retina.

Inside the macula is the fovea, a miniscule area in which there is the highest concentration of cones in the retina. It is this area that allows for the acute identification of colour, and when colour blindness is inherited, this means that the eye has formed with either a deficiency in or absence of cones.

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Diagnosing Colour Blindness

When children become old enough to begin identifying colours, they may experience difficulty discerning between shades of red, green, blue and yellow, which can be early indicators of colour blindness.

It is often the case that determining between shades is the primary issue, as colours can seem faded and less vibrant to those suffering from colour vision deficiency. If color vision problems are suspected, an appointment should be made at the opticians to undergo testing. There are two tests used to determine whether a child has colour vision deficiency, the Ishihara test, and the colour arrangement test. During colour arrangement, the patient will be asked to arrange objects of different colours into a certain order based on their shade. During the Ishihara test, a patient is asked to identify numbers that are made up of coloured dots and hidden within larger images.

If the onset of colour blindness is acute however, meaning you were able to see colour across the full spectrum and have experienced a sudden change in your ability, you should see your GP immediately. Sudden loss of colour vision can be inactive of underlying eye health issues, including cataracts.


Currently, there is no cure for colour vision deficiency. However, most people are able to make some lifestyle changes that enable them to adapt to life with the condition.

These coping methods are in essence a sort of treatment for the condition. Early diagnosis will enable the individual to make these changes sooner, so that life with colour blindness can be made easier. This is especially true during school age, when colour begins to play a more important part in learning. If your child has colour vision deficiency, be sure to speak to the teachers and school staff so that they can look at learning alternatives where possible. Friends and family can also help by offering practical solutions and morale support.

As there is no cure for the condition, those living with it may not be able to enter certain professionals in which accurate colour perception is necessary. With this in mind, in the absence of treatment or a cure, most people are able to make changes to their daily routines and enlist coping mechanisms to help them live life to the full.

Living With Colour Vision Deficiency

There are changes you can make to your lifestyle and home that can make living with colour vision deficiency easier on a day-to-day basis.

For example, you can ensure the lighting in your home and workplaces is bright, in order to give you the best conditions in which to identify and distinguish colours. Technology can also help, with new apps for smartphones and devices becoming available all the time. These can assist with colour detection, and you can also adjust the lighting on your computer screen and mobile devices when using them to help you identify colours, too. Some individuals may choose to wear glasses or contact lenses that have a tint designed to help you distinguish between certain shades, however, the success of these vary between individuals.

Finally, you can make adjustments to help you live with the condition. You can ask friends or family for help organising your wardrobe, and come up with a labeling system for clothes and other items around the house in which colour is important. You can also organise items based on their order and shape instead of their colour where possible.













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