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Color blindness is the inability to see certain colors in the usual way and the inability to perceive differences between some of the colors that can be distinguish that others can distinguish. It is often genetic in nature, but may also occur because of eye, nerve, brain damage or exposure to certain chemicals. Therapeutic drugs can also have an affect color vision. This paper will examine symptoms, causes and the affects of color blindness in daily life and what compensations can be made so that life in the color lane is smooth. There is no treatment, but most people adjust and the condition doesn’t limit their activities.
What is Color?
Color is a microconsciousness. Color helps us to understand the world around us. It gives us elementary survival skills, color also enriches our lives, allowing us to appreciate everything from the beauty of a rainbow, to the aesthetic pleasure of a painting. Many artists have explored the “essence” of things, and they divided the visual experience into components, such as “color” and “form,” in a manner surprisingly similar to the way in which our brain processes information.
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The color process is a far more complicated than just a recording of wavelengths of light rays that reaches our eyes. Color constancy is the amount of light of any given wavelength reflected from a surface constantly changing, depending upon the type of light in which it is viewed. Color constancy makes us see a banana as yellow in different illuminations. Color constancy ensures that we do not see a piece of chalk on a cloudy day as having the same color as a piece of coal on a sunny day. If it were not for color constancy, we would perceive the banana or the chalk in different lights as having all possible shades that lie between black and white.
Color is a property of objects that our minds create – an interpretation. This interpretation helps us acquire knowledge about the properties of surfaces. To construct colors, our subconscious mind analyzes ratios of the signals from photoreceptors in the retina. We take our ability to see color for most of us for granted, yet it is a highly complex process that begs the question of whether the “red” or “blue” we see is the same “red” or “blue” that others see. With all the beauty in color there is a small population who is color blind to some colors.
What is Color Blindness?
Color blindness also known as color deficiency. The human eye sees by light stimulating the retina. The retina contains two types of light cells known as rod and cones cells. Rod cells are active in low light without the ability to distinguish between colors. Cone cells are active in normal daylight. These cones help us to see objects in different colors and varying degrees of brightness. Each nerve cell or cone contains a light sensitive pigment which is sensitive over a range of wavelengths – each visible color is a different wavelength. There are three types of cones with one sensitive to short wavelengths, is the color blue, one sensitive to medium wavelengths, the color green, and the other sensitive to higher wavelengths, the color red.
Missing one pigment will result in having trouble telling the difference between red and green. Red-green is the most common type of color blindness. This type occurs in men more than women. The other major types are blue-yellow and a complete absence of color vision. (A.D.A.M. 2010). Color vision occurs within the visual part of the brain compares electrical signals from the different types of cones.
Symptoms of Color Blindness
Symptoms vary from person to person. Some symptoms are so mild that the persons may not know they are color blind. Often a parent notices the vision defect in color when a child is learning colors. Or do people often tell you that the color you think you are seeing is another color? Can you tell the difference between shades of the same or similar colors? The colors you are seeing are not bright, but dull where they blend together. In more severe cases rapid, side-to-side eye movements and other symptoms may occur.
Causes of Color Blindness
Color blindness occurs when there is a problem with the color-sensing materials- pigments in certain nerve cells of the eye. The red-green deficiency is due to “sex-linked X chromosomes” and “simple recessive hereditary traits”. “Men are mainly affected because women have two X chromosomes and they have only one X and a Y chromosome. For a woman to be color deficient, her father must be colorblind and her mother colorblind or be a carrier” (Waggoner, 2010).
In missing one pigment, you might have trouble telling the difference between red-green. This is the most common type of color blindness. Some people are deficient in seeing blue-yellow. Those deficient in seeing blue-yellow are almost always deficient in identifying red-green. Achromatopsia is the most severe form of color blindness. This form of color blindness is when a person cannot see any color. Achromatopsia is often associated with lazy eye, nystagmus – small, jerky eye movements, extreme poor vision, and severe light sensitivity.
Color vision deficiencies from birth affect the red-green cones or the blue-yellow cones. It is rare for a person to have full color blindness. Colorblindness can also be acquired as a result of disease such as Parkinson’s where the disease is a neurological disorder. The nerve cells in the retina may be damaged cannot function properly; or, injury from an accident where the cerebral is damaged. Therapeutic drugs such as “hydroxchloroquine (Plaquenil)” (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010) can cause of color blindness. “It is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, among other conditions (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010)”. In this case, the deficiency is cause by disruption to the neural pathways between the eyes and the brain. In other words, the light sensitive cells in the retina fail to respond appropriately to variations of wavelengths of light that enable people to see an array of colors. Color blindness also can occur during the aging processes where damage is done to the retinal cells.
In unusual types of colorblindness people associate color from memory. They see color in the mind not in the eyes, especially due to brain damage the individual is unable to see color, but can see color from memory. When the colors from memory are used to the natural eye the color may appear to be in the same or similar shades. (Causes of Color, 2010).
There are no treatments known. Color blindness is a life-long condition. Most people are able to adjust with difficulty or disability. There are tests and they are commonly done during eye examinations done by your healthcare provider or ophthalmologist. The test most sued is the Ishihara plates 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. To take a color blindness test and get a color scheme of different color deficiency, you may visit, http://www.colorvisiontesting.com and http://www.iamcal.com/toys/colors/index.php.
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Gene therapy for red-green color blindness in adults is promising. In exploring the possibility for curing color blindness using gene therapy in experiments on adult monkeys that had color blindness since birth have been successful. In the experiment “a third type of cone pigment was added to dichromatic retinas, providing the receptoral basis for trichromatic color vision. This opened a new avenue to explore the requirements for establishing the neural circuits for a new dimension of color sensation. Classic visual deprivation experiments have led to the expectation that neural connections established during development would not appropriately process an input that was not present from birth. Therefore, it was believed that the treatment of congenital vision disorders would be ineffective unless administered to the very young. However, we show that the addition of a third opsin in adult red-green color deficient primates was sufficient to produce trichromatic color vision behavior. Thus, trichromacy can arise from a single addition of a third cone class and it does not require an early developmental process. This provides a positive outlook for the potential of gene therapy to cure adult vision disorders” Mancuso, 2009).
Life’s Minor or Frustrations and Occasional Dangers for the Color Blind
Some people use tinted lenses such as eyeglasses or contact lens to enhance color perception, which are filters. People often find ways to work around the inability to pick out certain colors. Example: color organizing and labeling their clothing or items to avoid color clashes. It might be safe to remember the order of the items rather by color. An example is that the red light is at the top of the traffic light, and the green is at the bottom. It is not good when traffic lights are horizontal. It takes a few days to get use to that. Caution lights present an entirely different problem. In this situation there is only one light; no top or bottom, no right or left, one light that is either red or yellow.
Another problem is when the sun is tanning you and you can’t tell if you are getting red, by the time you can see fire red it is too late – painful sunburn is already present. Color observation by others is another problem: “look at the pink flowers on the shrub” your reply “looking at a greenish shrub “What flowers?” (Heath, 2010).
Colors that seem so different to the average viewer appear to be the same color to color blind persons who make up a very small population. Under poor viewing conditions, such as driving in dazzling sunlight or rainy or foggy weather, it is easy for a person to mistake a blinking red traffic light for a blinking yellow or amber light, or to fail to distinguish a green traffic light from various white lights in store front signs, and street lights. The dimming can also be noticeable that reds may be confused with black or dark gray, and red traffic lights may appear to be extinguished.
When working with chemicals the color blind person is generally unable to interpret some chemical reactions for example when using test strips for hard water, pH, and swimming pools. They may not see the litmus paper turns red by acid or identify a material by the color of its flame such as lead blue or potassium purpose. Interpreting the chemical testing kits for swimming pool water, test strips for hard water, soil or water pH tests, all rely on subtle color differences and a band of similar colors to compare against.
Cooking and foods can be another danger or frustration. Red deficient individuals cannot tell whether their piece of meat is raw or well done or the difference between green and ripe tomatoes or between ketchup and chocolate syrup. Some food can look definitely disgusting for example: green deficiency cannot possibly eat spinach which to them just looks like cow pat. They can however distinguish some citrus fruits. Oranges seem to be of brighter yellow than that of lemons. Many color blind people cannot tell whether a woman is wearing lipstick or not. Even more difficult to handle for some is the inability to make the difference between a blue-eyed blonde and a green-eyed redhead.
Those who are color blind may not be able to get a job that requires color vision. For example: a pilot for seeing colors, graphic artists for mixing ink colors, fashion designer for color fabrics or even a painter for mixing paints.
No cure exists for inherited color vision defects since they are caused by missing or incorrect visual pigments. Acquired color vision defects can be corrected sometimes if the underlying cause can be treated. Special aids have been developed to help persons with color vision defects distinguish some of the colors that cause them trouble. These aids do not provide normal color vision and therefore should be used with caution. People who are color blind can live enriched lives, allowing everything in the color spectrum to be appreciated from the beauty of a rainbow, to the aesthetic pleasure of a painting.
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