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Colour blindness means that you have trouble seeing red, green, or blue or a mix of these colours. It's rare that a person sees no colour at all.
Colour blindness is also called a colour vision problem.
A colour vision problem can change your life. It may make it harder to learn and read, and you may not be able to have certain careers. But children and adults with colour vision problems can learn to make up for their problems seeing colour.
Most colour vision problems are inherited (genetic) and are present at birth.
People usually have three types of cone cells in the eye. Each type senses either red, green, or blue light. You see colour when your cone cells sense different amounts of these three basic colours. The highest concentration of cone cells are found in the macula, which is the central part of the retina.
Inherited colour blindness happens when you don't have one of these types of cone cells or they don't work right. You may not see one of these three basic colours, or you may see a different shade of that colour or a different colour. This type of colour vision problem doesn't change over time.
A colour vision problem isn't always inherited. In some cases, a person can have an acquired colour vision problem. This can be caused by:
The symptoms of colour vision problems vary:
Tests measure how well you recognize different colours.
Because a colour vision problem can have a big impact on a person's life, it is important to detect the problem as early as possible. In children, colour vision problems can affect learning abilities and reading development. And colour vision problems may limit career choices that require you to tell colours apart. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends eye examinations at all newborn and routine checkups. Children with a family history of inherited eye problems should see an ophthalmologist by the age of three months.footnote 1
Inherited colour vision problems cannot be treated or corrected.
For the most common type of colour blindness—red-green colour deficiency—no treatment is needed, because you function normally. You may not be aware that you do not see colours the way they are seen by others.
Some acquired colour vision problems can be treated, depending on the cause. For example, if a cataract is causing a problem with colour vision, surgery to remove the cataract may restore normal colour vision.
You can find ways to help make up for a colour vision problem, such as:
Colour vision problems may make it harder for children to learn and read, which can lead to poor schoolwork and low self-esteem.
You can help your child these ways.
CitationsCommunity Paediatrics Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society (2009, reaffirmed 2016). Vision screening in infants, children and youth. Paediatrics and Child Health, 14(4): 246–248. http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/children-vision-screening. Accessed March 10, 2017.
Current as of: August 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineAnne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of: August 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
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