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Walter Shurminsky O.D.

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How We Perceive Color: All About Color Vision Deficiencies


Color blindness is a disorder affecting the capability to distinguish colors under normal light or to discern colors as they are viewed by typical individuals. Typically, the disorder is present at birth, but it can also be caused by accidents or a number of eye diseases.


Color perception is dependent upon the cones found in the eye's macula. Humans are usually born with three types of cones, each perceiving different wavelengths of color. With pigment, the length of the wave is directly associated with the perceived color tone. Short waves produce blues, medium-length waves project greens and longer waves generate red tones. Which type of cone is affected has an impact on the spectrum and level of the color blindness.


Green-red color blindness is more frequent in men than in women because the genetic code is linked to gender.


Color blindness is not a devastating disability, but it can damage educational growth and restrict options for professions. Being unable to distinguish colors as fellow students do could negatively impact a student's self-confidence. For anyone searching for work, color blindness could present a drawback when running against colleagues trying to advance in the same industry.


Eye doctors use several exams for the condition. The most common is the Ishihara color exam, named after its inventor. In this test a plate is shown with a circle of dots in seemingly random sizes and colors. Within the circle appears a digit in a particular shade. The patient's ability to see the digit inside the dots of contrasting colors determines the level of red-green color vision.


Although hereditary color blindness can't be treated, there are some steps that can assist to improve the situation. Some people find that wearing colored contacts or glasses which block glare can help to perceive the distinction between colors. Increasingly, new computer programs are on the market for regular PCs and even for mobile machines that can assist people to enhance color distinction depending on their particular condition. There is also interesting research being conducted in gene therapy to enhance color vision.


How much color blindness limits a person depends on the variant and severity of the condition. Some patients can accommodate to their condition by familiarizing themselves with substitute clues for determining a color scheme. For instance, many people learn the order of traffic lights or contrast items with color paradigms like green plants or the blue sky.


If you notice signs that you or your child might be color blind it's important to get tested by an eye doctor. The earlier you are aware of a problem, the easier it will be to live with. Feel free to call our Ramsey, NJ eye care practice to schedule an exam.

COVID-19 Update: Our office will be reopening for routine eye care on Monday, June 1, 2020. Appointments will be limited at first so call or schedule using our online scheduler.

For a list of updated COVID-19 protocols and procedures that we are implementing in our office for your safety as well as the safety of our staff, click here.