The Different Types of Color Blindness Explained

There are people in the world who are born seeing things differently, and not in the figurative sense. Color blindness affects 1 in 33,000 people and men are more genetically predisposed to the condition. Although the number seems small, color blindness is actually one of the most common genetic conditions in the whole world. Most color blindness is hereditary, and no studies have confirmed if external factors can cause the condition. It may not come off as a dangerous but in instances where color can mean candy or a dangerous pharmaceutical concoction, people should be aware if they have the condition or not.

The term used for vision that can perceive color normally is called trichromacy (from the prefix tri, meaning three, and chroma, meaning color.) Color is processed first by little types of eye parts called cones. Cones have three different types corresponding to the three primary colors. If you are missing one type of cone, then that means you are a dichromat.

For dichromatic vision, there are three types of color blindness. The first one is called protanopia. People with protanopia will have a hard time differentiating “warm” colors like red and orange. Just imagine if the a protanomalous person was in a country where the traffic lights are arranged in orange, red, and green – vehicular disaster can be their end. On the other end of the specture, people who lack medium wave cones responsible for processing green light have deuteranopia or deuteranomaly.

The third one is called tritanopia. Tritanomaly is a rare condition, affecting 1 in 50,000. People with this type of color blindness have trouble telling apart blue from green and yellow from violet.

There are also individuals who cannot perceive color entirely. These individuals have achromatopsia. The world to them looks straight out of a movie theater from the 1960’s.

People with these conditions get to experience some frustating things along the way. An inability to see whether food has gone bad or not can be dangerous although the next best thing to do is for them to take a sniff. It can even affect career choices – people with color blindness may have difficulty pursuing a career related to art or design. Sports can be difficult as being able to distinguish your team from yourself using color is an advantage. This is especially true with football. It’s even more worrying for coaches or referees. Giving the wrong card to the wrong player can be awkward.

Some less worrying things for people affected by achromatopsia can be mismatched clothes (or socks, for example) or frustration for the lack of their ability to see a rainbow in the complete spectrum.

There is no cure for color blindness yet, though gene therapy is in testing. If you suspect that you have difficulty differentiating colors from one another, it’s better to consult an eye doctor. Color tests are available and call Pearle Vision or LensCrafters before hand to schedule an appointment.

The test for color blindness is called the Ishihara Plate test. You may have come across this fun little test on the internet. (Yes, it’s the one with the colored circles). The test has 38 plates (or pages) to check for colour deficiency. You have normal vision if you can score 10 or above. If a person scores 7 or below then that means they have at least one type of color blindness.

On the other side of things, there are women who are born with 4 cones for processing color. That means they can see 100 more colors than us! Unfortunately, it’s an extremely rare condition, so we won’t know if we’re truly tetrachromatic.

Whatever type of color blindness you may be afflicted with, it’s important to appreciate that we can perceive the world in color. For comparison, our dogs have achromatopsia (they actually have better sense of smell, so their senses are well-compensated), cats are naturally protanomalous and cannot distinguish pinks from reds, reptiles which have slits for eyes can only see black and white. Deers are also color blind to orange and reds, that’s why the recommended hunting gear are in orange.

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