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Color blindness

Definition:

Color blindness is the inability to see some colors in the usual way.



Alternative Names:

Color deficiency; Blindness - color



Causes:

Color blindness occurs when there is a problem with the pigments in certain nerve cells of the eye that sense color. These cells are called cones. They are found in the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye, called the retina .

If just one pigment is missing, you may have trouble telling the difference between red and green. This is the most common type of color blindness. If a different pigment is missing, you may have trouble seeing blue-yellow colors. People with blue-yellow color blindness often have problems seeing reds and greens, too.

The most severe form of color blindness is achromatopsia. This is a rare condition in which a person cannot see any color, only shades of gray.

Most color blindness is due to a genetic problem . About 1 in 10 men have some form of color blindness. Very few women are color blind.

The drug hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) can also cause color blindness. It is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions.



Symptoms:

Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include:

  • Trouble seeing colors and the brightness of colors in the usual way
  • Inability to tell the difference between shades of the same or similar colors

Often, symptoms are so mild that people may not know they are color blind. A parent may notice signs of color blindness when a young child is first learning colors.

Rapid, side-to-side eye movements (nystagmus) and other symptoms may occur in severe cases.



Exams and Tests:

Your health care provider or eye specialist can check your color vision in several ways. Testing for color blindness is a common part of an eye exam .



Treatment:

There is no known treatment. Special contact lenses and glasses may help people with color blindness tell the difference between similar colors.



Outlook (Prognosis):

Color blindness is a lifelong condition. Most people are able to adjust to it.



Possible Complications:

People who are colorblind may not be able to get a job that requires the ability to see colors accurately. For example, electricians, painters, and fashion designers need to be able to see colors accurately.



Whe to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your provider or eye specialist if you think you (or your child) may have color blindness.



References:

Adams AJ, Verdon WA, Spivey BE. Color vision. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Foundations of Clinical Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:vol. 2, chap 19.

Crouch ER, Crouch ER, and Grant TR. Ophthalmology. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 17.

Wiggs JL. Molecular genetics of selected ocular disorders. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 1.2.




Review Date: 5/11/2015
Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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Hackettstown Medical Center
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Goryeb Children's Hospital
100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
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Atlantic Medical Group
1-800-247-9580

Morristown Medical Center

100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

Overlook Medical Center

99 Beauvoir Avenue
Summit, NJ 07901
908-522-2000

Newton Medical Center

175 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
973-383-2121

Chilton Medical Center

97 West Parkway
Pompton Plains, NJ 07444
973-831-5000

Hackettstown Medical Center

651 Willow Grove Street
Hackettstown, NJ 07840
908-852-5100

Goryeb Children's Hospital

100 Madison Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960
973-971-5000

Affiliated Providers

Atlantic Medical Group

More than 600 community-based health care providers.
1-800-247-9580

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