Each year, millions of individuals are diagnosed with a life impacting vision disorder known as color blindness. For many, being colorblind may simply involve the inability to proper match clothing colors, leading to irregular clothing selections. Still, for others, the colorblindness may be of such a degree and severity so as to complicate even the most basic of daily living activities, such as driving a vehicle. As an individual experiencing changes in color perception, the first step is determining what form of colorblindness exist; inherited or acquired, as this will determine the steps which may be pursued to remedy the visual disorder and restore an almost normal lifestyle.
Color blindness, as a general rule, can be divided into two categories; inherited and acquired. While most colorblind individuals suffer with inherited colorblindness, acquired colorblindness is equally as debilitating. Because each person is born with more than ten color vision genes, the degree and severity of colorblindness will vary from one individual to another.
In the inherited colorblindness, the genetic defect is passed to a child by way of the mother’s genes. While the mother may not exhibit colorblindness herself, her offspring may suffer from the vision disorder when the genetic code for colorblindness is passed to a fetus. The degree and severity of colorblindness, in hereditary cases, may vary from one family member to another due to the numerous color vision genes we each possess and from which a genetic defect may arise. In fact, children with sickle cell anemia will often exhibit some form of color blindness due to the proximity of the genetic defect on the X chromosome.
Unlike inherited colorblindness, acquired colorblindness does not involve a genetic defect of the X chromosome. Instead, acquired colorblindness may occur as a result of head trauma, use of specific medications and even as a side effect to the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). Also, unlike inherited colorblindness, acquired colorblindness is progressive and may not be first realized by the patient until the vision deficiency has reached deteriorating proportions. The good news with acquired colorblindness is the possibility of remedy. That is to say, once the underlying cause and origin of the acquired colorblindness is resolved, the condition will remedy resulting in normal vision perception of color.
While acquired colorblindness can, to some extent, be resolved, it is the inherited colorblindness which poses a great lifestyle complication to the sufferer. For these individuals, defining color as they see it versus the color other individuals see can often lead to confusing conversations and descriptions. For this reason, a colorblind child must be educated in the realm of color perception, color spectrum and color description as oftentimes the colorblind individual, of an inherited nature, will fail to properly match colors in clothing, home décor and even when looking at street signs and street lights.
As with any vision disorder, the first step in determining the extent and nature of the condition lies in the initial vision examination by an optometrist. Once examined, and found to be positive for color deficiencies, a follow up examination with a vision specialist, generally an ophthalmologist may be necessary. The key to healthy vision is to seek out early intervention, diagnosis and treatment and schedule annual preventative vision examinations with your local optometrist.