By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Color blindness or color vision deficiency is incurable and there is no specific treatment that can help individuals with this condition.
While in some individuals the symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed unless detected during a routine vision check, in others the symptoms are obvious during childhood. Children with a color vision deficiency are more likely to develop a learning difficulty unless they are diagnosed and helped early on. Such children may have difficulty naming colors or reading maps, although this may go unnoticed in mild cases.
A child with normal vision and a child with a color vision deficiency may both call a leaf green or a flower red, but their individual color perceptions may be different, with the affected child assuming a yellowish hue is actually green, for example. Identifying color blindness early on is important to prevent learning problems.
Color vision tests
The Ishihara test is the most common test used for checking colour vision. The patient looks at a plate made up of multicolored dots that are arranged in such a way to give the outline of a number, which the patient is asked to identify. This is one of the most common tests used to detect a red–green deficiency. Another test is the Farnsworth arrangement test where the person is asked to arrange coloured objects in order of lightest to darkest.
Currently, there is no cure for this condition. Coloured filters or contact lenses are available that can be worn in certain circumstances to help increase brightness and make it easier to distinguish colors but many patients find them disorientating and difficult to wear.
Usually, people affected by a color vision deficiency learn to adapt to the condition. Ways in which a person can compensate for their difficulty in perceiving colors correctly include:
Asking friends or family members to help with matching and color co-ordinating clothes. This is particularly needed in cases of severe deficiency.
Ensuring lighting in the home and work environment is adequate and good quality to help distinguish colors.
Informing teachers of the problem so that learning materials can be modified or teaching methods adjusted.
There are several health conditions and side effects of medication that can cause color vision deficiency, in which case the problem should resolve when the cause is identified and treated. Examples of illnesses that may cause the deficiency include diabetes, glaucoma, optic neuritis and age-related macular degeneration, while drugs that may trigger the problem include digoxin and chloroquine.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Feb 5, 2014