Michelle Calder, O.D., is the owner and lead optometrist at Urban Optiques in Northville, MI.

Color vision deficiency, more commonly known as color blindness, is when a person has a hard time distinguishing between certain colors—typically, shades of red and green. The rarest form of color blindness is when you can’t see colors at all. Red-green deficiency, which is the inability to distinguish between certain shades of red and green, is the most common type. A whopping one out of twelve men and one out of two hundred women are born color-blind.

Color blindness is usually an inherited condition. The culprit is a gene on the sex-linked X chromosomes, which causes the trait to pass from parent to child. When the deficiency is hereditary, the severity of the condition remains constant throughout life. Inherited color blindness does not necessarily lead to any additional vision loss or blindness.

Non-genetic causes of color blindness include injuries to the eye, diabetes, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Certain medications used to treat heart problems, high blood pressure, and nervous disorders have also been linked to loss of color perception in some patients.

Unfortunately, inherited color vision problems cannot be treated or corrected. Some cases of acquired color blindness, however, can be treated. For example, if a cataract is causing a problem with color vision, removing the cataract with surgery may restore normal color vision.

Here are some tips on how to work around the inability to see certain colors:

    • Wear glasses that block glare. People with color vision problems can see differences between colors better when there is less glare and brightness.
    • Look for cues like brightness or location, rather than colors. For example, be mindful of the order of the three lights on a traffic signal.
    • Enlist your friends and family for help. Ask them to help you organize and label clothing, furniture, or other colored objects to avoid mismatched, color combinations.

Though color vision deficiency can be frustrating and may limit participation in some activities, it does not pose a serious threat to your vision.

UPDATE: While color blindness can be treated with vision aids such as specialty contact lenses, these do not cure the eye disorder. The only true way to cure color vision deficiency is to somehow implant or generate cone photo receptors in the retina, which cannot be done at this time.  If you are interested in learning more about these types of vision aids, contact your VSP doctor.

The content of this article is for general informational awareness purposes only. Please consult your eyecare doctor or physician for actual advice.
Michelle Calder, O.D., is the owner and lead optometrist at Urban Optiques in Northville, MI.