You’ve almost certainly heard the term, but not many people fully understand what color blindness is. While being color blind is a relatively unobtrusive condition, it can have several different effects on the people who experience it. Read on to learn more about what color blindness is, what causes it, and what it means for those who live with it.

What is color blindness?

The human eye sees color by wavelength. Just as different musical notes create different wavelengths of sound, different colors hit the human eye with different wavelengths of light. Red, for example, has a long wavelength, whereas blue has a shorter one.

These wavelengths are detected by cones in the eye. A typical human eye has three different types of cones (L, M, and S), and each is specialized to detect different colors in the color spectrum. In cases where one or more of these cones aren’t working properly, or are missing altogether, a person will experience color blindness. Depending on the situation of an individual’s cones, color blindness might be severe or mild.

Red and Green Color Blind Test

What causes color blindness?

As you’ve read, color blindness is caused by problems in the cones of an individual’s eyes. What leads to these faulty cones? In the majority of cases, color blindness is hereditary. Because color blindness is passed through family lines via the X chromosome, men are much more likely to be color blind than women.

In some cases, color blindness can be the result of eye damage. Some cases also suggest that long-term alcoholism or congenital diseases like diabetes can lead to color blindness.

What are the effects of color blindness?

The most common form is red-green color blindness, meaning a person will have a hard time telling reds and greens apart. Keep in mind that certain games might be slightly more difficult for color blind people, like board games that utilize a lot of color.

For the most part, people with hereditary color blindness live completely normal lives. There are some jobs that might be impossible for color blind people to do safely and efficiently; pilots, for example, need to be able to see all colors, and other positions like graphic design or electrician might be challenging with color blindness. However, hereditary color blindness does not change or get worse with age. On the whole, color blindness can cause some inconvenience, but is a very manageable condition.  

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