Being colorblind can mean many different things, yet only in rare cases does it mean seeing in only black and white.
The technical term for complete color blindness is monochromacy, and it only affects 1/33,000 people. Most people with a form of color blindness can see certain colors, but which colors and why depends on a few factors. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of color blindness.
How Does Color Vision Work?
Two crucial pieces of the biology of human eyesight are the rods and cones in our retinas. These are specialized cells that can detect light. Rods detect contrast in the intensity of light, but only cones can detect differences in color.
A person with normal color vision has three types of cones that absorb light at three different wavelengths. There are cones for short (blue) wavelengths, medium (green) ones, and long (red) ones.
Different Types of Color Blindness
There’s basically only one way for color vision to go right (trichromacy), but many ways it can go wrong. People with anomalous trichromacy have all the cones, but some of them misfire, producing a similar outcome to dichromacy (two-cone color vision).
The most common form of color blindness is red-green, and it could be because the green cones aren’t working (deuteranomaly) or the red cones aren’t working (protanomaly). In both cases, the result is a dull landscape of brownish-yellows. This is the type of color blindness that affects more men than women.
Blue-yellow color blindness (tritanopia) is when the blue cones don’t work properly, and the result is a palette of pinks, teals, and browns. Tritanopia only accounts for 5% of all cases of color blindness.
As mentioned before, the rarest form of color blindness is monochromacy, and it can happen because no cones work, just one type works, or there’s a problem with the way the visual cortex in the brain processes the images from the retinas. Monochromacy also tends to come with weak central vision, severe light sensitivity, and involuntary eye movements.
Is Color Blindness Treatable?
You might have heard of the sunglasses that enable colorblind people to see in the full spectrum of colors for the first time in their lives. Those sunglasses are a marvel in the world of optometry, but they don’t work on all forms of color blindness. A dichromat (someone who only has two types of cones) wouldn’t get anything from sunglasses like that, but an analogous trichromat might! They have all the cones, but some of them misfire and respond to more wavelengths than they should.
The sunglasses work by blocking out specific wavelengths so that the colors are better separated. It increases the contrast between colors and helps train the cones to respond only to the correct wavelengths. If you haven’t seen the videos of colorblind people trying on those sunglasses for the first time, we definitely recommend checking some out.
Let Us Check for Signs of Color Blindness
If you want to make sure whether or not you’ve been living life in full color, we can test for that in our comprehensive eye exams. Color blindness might seem like a minor issue, but it can make everyday tasks more difficult. Request an appointment with us here!
Your lifelong vision health is our highest priority!