Definition

What is poor color vision?

Poor color vision is a reduced ability to distinguish between certain colors. Although many people use the term “colorblind” to refer to the reduced ability to discriminate between colors, true colorblindness is a total lack of color vision, which is rare.

How common is poor color vision?

Poor color vision is usually inherited. Men are more likely to be born with poor color vision. Most people with poor color vision can’t distinguish between certain shades of red and green. Less commonly, people with poor color vision can’t distinguish between shades of blue and yellow. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of poor color vision?

You may have poor color vision and not know it. Some people figure out that they or their child has the condition when it causes confusion — such as when there are problems differentiating the colors in a traffic light or interpreting color-coded learning materials.

People affected by poor color vision may not be able to distinguish:

  • Different shades of red and green
  • Different shades of blue and yellow
  • Any colors

The most common color deficiency is an inability to see some shades of red and green. Often, a person who is red-green or blue-yellow deficient isn’t completely insensitive to both colors. Defects can be mild, moderate or severe

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you suspect you have problems distinguishing certain colors or your color vision changes, see an eye doctor for testing. It’s important that children get comprehensive eye exams, including color vision testing, before starting school.

There’s no cure for inherited poor color vision, but if illness or eye disease is the cause, treatment may improve color vision.

Causes

What causes poor color vision?

Seeing colors across the light spectrum is a complex process that begins with your eyes’ ability to distinguish the primary colors red, blue and green.

Light enters your eye through the cornea and passes through the lens and transparent, jelly-like tissue in your eye (vitreous body) to color-sensitive cells (cones) at the back of your eye in the retina. Chemicals in the cones distinguish colors and send that information through your optic nerve to your brain.

If your eyes are normal, you can distinguish different colors, but if your cones lack one or more light-sensitive chemicals, you may see only two of the primary colors.

Poor color vision has several causes:

  • Inherited disorder. Inherited poor color vision is much more common in males than in females. The most common color deficiency is red-green, with blue-yellow deficiency being much less common. It is rare to have no color vision at all. You can inherit a mild, moderate or severe degree of the disorder. Inherited poor color vision usually affects both eyes, and the severity doesn’t change over your lifetime.
  • Some conditions that can cause color deficits are sickle cell anemia, diabetes, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, chronic alcoholism and leukemia. One eye may be more affected than the other, and the color deficit may get better if the underlying disease can be treated.
  • Certain medications. Some medications can alter color vision, such as some drugs that treat heart problems, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, infections, nervous disorders and psychological problems.
  • Your ability to see colors deteriorates slowly as you age.
  • Exposure to some chemicals in the workplace, such as carbon disulfide and fertilizers, may cause loss of color vision.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for poor color vision?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is poor color vision diagnosed?

If you have trouble seeing certain colors, your eye doctor can test to see if you have a color deficiency. You’ll likely be given a thorough eye exam and shown specially designed pictures made of colored dots that have numbers or shapes in a different color hidden in them.

If you have a color vision deficiency, you’ll find it difficult or impossible to see some of the patterns in the dots.

Computer or phone application tests can be useful for a quick color vision screening, but they may not be as accurate as standardized in-office testing.

How is poor color vision treated?

There are no treatments for most types of color vision difficulties, unless the color vision problem is related to the use of certain medicines or eye conditions. Discontinuing the medication causing your vision problem or treating the underlying eye disease may result in better color vision.

Wearing a colored filter over eyeglasses or a colored contact lens may enhance your perception of contrast between colors. But such lenses won’t improve your ability to see all colors.

Some rare retinal disorders associated with color deficiency could possibly be modified with gene replacement techniques. These treatments are under study and might become available in the future.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage poor color vision?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with poor color vision:

  • Memorize the order of colored objects. If it’s important to know individual colors, such as with traffic lights, memorize the order of the colors.
  • Label colored items that you want to match with other items. Have someone with good color vision help you sort and label your clothing. Arrange your clothes in your closet or drawers so that colors that can be worn together are near each other.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 8, 2017 | Last Modified: December 8, 2017

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