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Colour Blindness

by Satguru Rathi — last modified 2008-11-05 13:10
Colour blindness is the inability to see colours either !hole or in "art#
Colour $lindness
%hat is colour blindness&
's the name suggests colour blindness is the inability to see colours either !hole or in "art# Colour (ision is made "ossible by the
"resence of cones
in the eye# )he Cones are found on the retina# )here are * to + million cones di(ided into ,red- cones .reen cones and blue cones
"ro(iding the eye/s
colour sensiti(ity# )he cones are ma0imally concentrated in the fo(ea centralis 1located in the macula2 and is a 0#3 mm diameter rod-free
area !ith (ery
thin densely "ac3ed cones#
)here are + ty"es of colour deficiency due to cone abnormalities# 4eo"le !ith normal colour (ision are called 5trichromats5 because they
re6uire three "rimaries
to match any arbitrary sam"le# )he trichromatic eye has three cone ty"es each containing a "hoto"igment !hich res"onds to a restricted
range of !a(elengths#
)he ma7or colour deficiencies are abnormalities in the !ay cone "igment is distributed in the cones#
%hat are the ty"es of inherited colour (ision defects&
)here are three grou"s of inherited colour (ision defects: monochromacy dichromacy and anomalous trichromacy# )he last t!o grou"s
are subdi(ided into red-green
and blue-yello! ty"es of defects# 8nherited red-green colour (ision defects are more common in males 11 to 8 "ercent de"ending on race2
than in females
1about 0#9 "ercent2# 8nherited blue-yello! defects are rare in either se0#
:onochromacy: Rod monochromats or com"lete achromats are truly 5colour blind5 since they cannot distinguish any hues 1eg blue
green yello! and red2#
)hey see only different degrees of lightness# ;or them the !orld a""ears to be shades of gray blac3 and !hite# )hey also ha(e "oor (isual
acuity a(ersion
to bright light and nystagmus 1an in(oluntary ra"id mo(ement of the eyes2# Rod monochromacy is a genetic defect that is inherited from
both "arents#
<ichromacy is a less se(ere form of colour defect than monochromacy# <ichromats can tell some hues a"art# <ichromacy is di(ided into
three ty"es: "rotano"ia
deuterano"ia and tritano"ia#
4rotano"ia and deuterano"ia are red-green defects# 4ersons !ith red-green defects ha(e difficulty distinguishing bet!een reds greens and
yello!s but can
discriminate bet!een blues and yello!s# 4rotano"es often can name red and green correctly because green loo3s lighter to them than red#
:ales ha(e red-green defects if they inherit a defecti(e gene from their mother# 'ffected males "ass the defecti(e gene to all of their
daughters but none
of their sons# ;emales !ho inherit only one defecti(e gene are carriers of that gene# ;emales !ho inherit the gene for red-green defect
from both "arents
are affected#
=ereditary tritano"ia is a blue-yello! defect# 4ersons !ith blue-yello! defects cannot see the difference bet!een blues and yello!s but
can distinguish
bet!een reds and greens# )ritano"ia is some!hat rare and occurs e6ually in both se0es# )riatno"es usually ha(e fe!er "roblems in
"erforming e(eryday tas3s
than do those !ith red-green dichromacy#
'nomalous )richromacy: )he ability of anomalous trichromats to distinguish bet!een hues is better than dichromats but still not normal#
Red-green anomalous
trichromacy is subdi(ided into "rotanomaly and deuteranomaly# $oth ty"es are inherited in the same !ay as for red-green dichromacy#
)he se(erity can range
from mild to e0treme# Some "ersons !ith the mildest forms may not e(en realise their colour (ision is abnormal#
' third ty"e of anomalous trichromacy is tritanomaly# )his condition is more often ac6uired than inherited#
<o the elderly see colours differently from the young&
>es# 8n fact it is some!hat sur"rising that designers !orry so much about colour blindness !hich is 1? 1dichromatic2 of the "o"ulation
!hile they often
ignore the much larger grou" of elderly !ho almost al!ays e0hibit (isual deficits# )he elderly 1*5@2 are 12? of the "o"ulation and those
7ust beginning
to e0"erience (isual decline 150@2 are 25?# :oreo(er the elderly "o"ulation is booming and e0"ected to more than double in the ne0t 30
years#
Aision declines !ith age in se(eral !ays but the most rele(ant for colour design is the yello!ing and dar3ening of the lens and cornea and
the shrin3ing
"u"il siBe# >ello!ing selecti(ely bloc3s short !a(elength light so blues loo3 dar3er# :oreo(er the elderly ha(e difficulty discriminating
colours !hich
differ "rimarily in their blue content: blue-!hite blue-gray green-blue green red-"ur"le etcetra#
'ging also reduces the amount of light reaching the "hotorece"tors com"ared to the young (ie!er# 'll colours !ill be dimmer and (isual
resolution lo!er#
;or e0am"le a moderately bright yello! may a""ear bro!nish and dimmer blues !ill a""ear blac3# %hen designing for the elderly use
bright colours and
ma3e sure that brightness contrast is es"ecially high 1and te0t larger2 to hel" com"ensate for acuity loss#
Can colour (ision defects be cured&
Co cure e0ists for inherited colour (ision defects since they are caused by missing or incorrect (isual "igments# 'c6uired colour (ision
defects can be
corrected sometimes if the underlying cause can be treated#
S"ecial aids ha(e been de(elo"ed to hel" "ersons !ith colour (ision defects distinguish some of the colours that cause them trouble# )hese
de(ices include
s"ecially tinted contact lenses and eyeglasses# =o!e(er these aids do not "ro(ide normal colour (ision and therefore should be used !ith
caution#
=o! are colour (ision defects diagnosed&
S"ecialised colour (ision tests can easily detect colour (ision defects# 4seudoisochromatic "late tests are commonly used to screen for
inherited colour
(ision defects# 8n this grou" of tests a "attern of coloured dots forms a number or letter against a bac3ground of other coloured dots#
4ersons !ith normal
colour (ision can discern these "atterns but those !ith colour defects cannot#