What causes color blindness

The retina contains rods and cones that help us to see objects in different colors and varying degrees of brightness. The cones are photoreceptors that allow us to distinguish between many colors and different shades of these colors as well. The cones contain light sensitive pigments that are particular to range of range of wavelengths. There are three different types of cones with one sensitive to short wavelengths, or the color blue, one sensitive to medium wavelengths, or the color green , and the other sensitive to higher wavelengths, or the color red 

When there are deficiencies in the cones, either at birth or acquired through other ways, the cones are not able to distinguish the particular wavelengths and thus, that color range is seen differently. Missing the cones responsible for green and red hues can also affect the sensitivity to brightness. 

Color blindness is hereditary and thus it is usually transferred at birth. As we age our sensitivity also diminishes as well but usually not to a great extent. Damage to the retina from eye diseases or physical damage may also lead to color blindness.

Color blindness is usually hereditary, meaning that we are born with it. Age can also diminish our color sensitivity, but usually not to the extent that occurs with hereditary color blindness. Damage to the retina from eye diseases or injury may also lead to color blindness.

Common eye diseases that may affect color vision include:

Occasionally, medications may affect one’s color vision. Common medications known to do this include:

  • Myambutol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Estradiol
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Digitalis
  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
  • Chloroquine
  • Viagra (can cause disturbances in blue vision—ironically, the color of the pill itself)


Types of Color Blindness.

Anomalous Trichromacy – A mild shift in the sensitivity of pigments of the cones

  • Protanomaly – shades of red appear weaker in depth and brightness
  • Deuteranomaly – shades of green appear weaker
  • Tritanomaly – very rare case where shades of blue appear weaker

Dichromacy – Great deficiency or missing completely one of the cones

  • Protanopia – shades of red are greatly reduced, if present at all, in depth and brightness
  • Deuteranopia – shades of green are greatly reduced, if present at all, in depth and brightness
  • Tritanopia – very rare case where shades of blue are greatly reduced, if present at all, in depth and brightness

Color Blindness Test.

There are a few methods for Color Blindness testing. The most used is the Ishihara plates test. This test consists of plates that contain a circle filled with bubbles in shades of colors to be tested. In this circle is formed certain numbers that people with certain color deficiency will not be able to distinguish. An example is the pictures placed above in the Types of Color Blindness section. To take a color blindness test and get a color scheme of different color deficiency, please visit http://www.colorvisiontesting.com and http://www.iamcal.com/toys/colors/index.php

Viewing the World with Color Blindness.

Normal View
Normal View




The following images were provided courtesy of Terrace L. Waggoner, O.D. More information on color blindness can be found on http://www.colorvisiontesting.com/