Most people think of color blindness as an oddity that has little effect on the general population. Surprisingly, the condition affects 8% of men and 0.5% of women. If you don’t want to do the math, that means 1 in 200 women and a whopping 1 in 12 men! There are a few other facts about color blindness that might surprise you as well.
Most people who are considered “color blind” can see some colors. The correct term for color blind patients who see colors other than black, white, and shades of grey is color deficient. People who suffer from color deficiency see a limited spectrum that is not always correct.
Color blindness is generally split into three main categories: red-green color blindness (most common), blue-yellow color blindness, and total color blindness (rare).
These categories are further separated into sub-categories which determine severity. Mild cases of color deficiency can lead to embarrassing wardrobe mishaps or mistakes identifying colors outside the usual spectrum. Severe cases can affect school and work performance, health, and important safety issues.
Color deficiency is sometimes diagnosed years after problems have been occurring. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has no formal requirements for colorblind testing. When a child sees things the same way he always has, it’s impossible for him to know it’s different than what others see. Most children can detect some colors and can learn to guess different hues. When the same colors are missed over and over, it can be mistaken for a learning difficulty similar to confusing a lowercase ‘b’ for ‘d’ or writing a certain number backward. A noticeable symptom might be when a child places markedly different colors together during a sorting activity.
If the condition goes undiagnosed, the child soon learns to read the names of colors and follow other students in color related activities. In early school years, color deficient students report some daily difficulties. No diagnosis before middle-school could lead to potential disaster in science lab.
Would you be able to enjoy a creamy glob of peanut butter if it was green? If ripe and green bananas looked exactly the same, we might not like them so much. If cooked spinach was a dull shade of brown, it could look like a juicy pile of something else on your plate. Many color deficient people couldn’t tell the difference between chocolate syrup and ketchup without a label. It might be easy to say we’d still love the foods we always have, but to a child who hasn’t acquired a taste for things, the appearance can be too much to overcome.
Red-green color blindness is by far the most common type. People with a mild deficiency can often detect the colors of traffic lights. However, a severe color deficiency makes all lights appear white, similar to streetlights. Color blind sufferers quickly learn to consider light order (red on top, green at the bottom) during the daytime. However, response times are significantly slowed. By dusk, placement is almost impossible to discern increasing the potential for error.
Perhaps equally dangerous is the question of brake lights.At speeds of over 45 miles per hour, the bright red glare of brake lights is the best indication of someone suddenly slowing ahead. Brake lights are barely noticeable to a person with severe color deficiency. In fact, the patient would probably have to spend so much time focusing on brake lights to see the change, they would miss other dangers on the road.
While there is no cure for genetic color blindness, solutions do exist. The most well-known products include a variety of lenses and glasses, many of which work to varying effectiveness. Most health insurances also do not recognize the problem as a medical condition, adding to the cost. Otherwise, there is hope for a cure using gene therapy. This is a ways off but currently undergoing testing and clinical trials.
While only the most basic information about the disorder is shared, color deficiency has long been recognized as a problem. Multiple studies have been conducted, and the court has even seen its share of cases regarding disability and the workplace. Nearsightedness is a condition routinely checked by your eye doctor, often covered by vision plans on health insurance, and noted on our driver’s licenses. Perhaps color blindness will be treated so simply in the future.