Most common types of color blindness are genetic, meaning they’re passed down from parents. If your color blindness is hereditary, your color vision will not get any better or worse over time. You can acquire a color vision deficiency later in life due to age, a disease, injury, or coming in contact with some substance that affects your eyes or brain. Frequently, the cause of color blindness determines how severe the symptoms will be and whether color blindness can be treated or not.
INHERITED COLOR BLINDNESS
How can color blindness be passed down from parents? Conditions such as color blindness are passed from parents to their children on groups of genes called chromosomes. Chromosomes are structures, which contain genes. Genes are the instructions for the development of cells, tissues, and organs. If you are color blind, it means the gene cells are faulty. The cone cells might be missing, or less sensitive to light, or the pathway from your cone cells to your brain has not developed correctly.
Some of these, called X and Y-chromosomes, will determine if a person is born male or female. Males have 1 X-chromosome and 1 Y- chromosome, and females have 2 X-chromosomes.
Men are more likely to be colorblind than women
The genes that can determine if you red-green color blindness are passed down on the X-chromosome. Since it’s passed down on the X-chromosome, red-green color blindness is more common in men. This condition is because males have only 1 X-chromosome from the mother. If that X-chromosome has the gene for red-green color blindness instead of a normal X-chromosome, he will have red-green color blindness. Females have 2 X-chromosomes, one from the mother and one from the father. To have red-green color blindness, both X-chromosomes would need to have the gene that creates this type of color blind condition.
Other on-sex chromosomes pass down blue-yellow color blindness and complete color blindness, so they affect males and females equally.
Inherited conditions that can cause color blindness
- Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy. This type of condition can affect even carriers who don’t have other symptoms but do have a degree of color blindness. Red-green color vision defects are primarily noted with this condition.
- Kallman’s syndrome. This inherited condition involves the failure of the pituitary gland, which can lead to incomplete or unusual gender-related development such as sexual organs. Color blindness can be one symptom of this condition.
ACQUIRED COLOR BLINDNESS
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, if you were not born with color blindness, you can develop issues distinguishing colors later in life due to:
- Drugs or medications
- Use of Chemicals
Most people who acquire color vision deficiency retain some ability to perceive all colors. Unlike inherited color blindness, acquired color blindness can vary over time. Symptoms may be mild and remain stable, or they can be severe and progress to more severe forms of color blindness very quickly.
Your color vision may also get worse as you get older, especially if you get a cataract
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. Cataracts form when the proteins in the lens of your eye clump together, making your lens cloudy. The lens of your eye is usually clear, allowing light to pass through. The lens helps focus the light on your retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye), so you can see things clearly, whether they’re up close or far away.
At first, you may not notice that you have a cataract. But over time, cataracts can make your vision blurry, hazy, or less colorful.
Doctors and researchers don’t know what makes some people get cataracts, but they do know that there are things that can make cataracts form faster, including:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Spending too much time in the sun without sunglasses
Some health problems and treatments can also make cataracts more likely, including:
- A serious eye injury
- Eye surgery to treat glaucoma or another eye condition
- Taking steroids or medicines used to treat a variety of health problems, like arthritis or allergies for a long time
- Getting radiation treatment for cancer or other diseases
Sudden changes in color vision can indicate severe disease. You should make an appointment to see your ophthalmologist if you notice a difference in the way you perceive colors. Diseases that could cause changes in color vision include:
Diabetes is a carbohydrate disorder where the body cannot produce or use insulin. Islet cells in the pancreas produce insulin. Insulin opens other cells in your body to allow the glucose to enter and be used for energy. The inability to produce insulin results in a build-up of sugar in the blood, which can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a disease of the retina. The most common type of retinopathy is related to diabetes. The tiny blood vessels in the retina become swollen, which blocks the oxygen supply to the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can be proliferative, where abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina. It can also be non-proliferative, where blood vessels in the retina deteriorate. Proliferative retinopathy occurs when the existing blood vessels close off. The proliferative type of retinopathy can lead to impaired vision or color blindness.
Many people with pre-diabetes or diabetes have a color vision deficit that affects blue-yellow color vision.
Glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve, often due to pressure inside the eye. This pressure builds when the eye’s fluid cannot drain properly. The optic nerve carries signals from the eye to the brain. Damage from the pressure can cause color blindness, loss of peripheral vision, and, eventually, blindness.
AMD is an eye disease that occurs when a small portion of the retina at the back of the eye called the “macula” changes to age. People with macular degeneration gradually lose their color perception. This loss is because the photoreceptor cone cells, which are most dense in the macula, are responsible for color vision. The rod cells, which increase in the peripheral field, provide only black and shades of gray.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, which can result in deficits in visual function, including color blindness.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system that causes tremors, muscular rigidity, and slow, precise movement. Degeneration of the basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of dopamine are the cause of the disease. In Parkinson’s disease, light-sensitive nerve cells in the retina where vision processing occurs may be damaged and cannot function properly.
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
AML is a type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow, causing bone marrow cells not to grow normally. Abnormal cells build up and spread in the body. As the leukemia cells spread to other parts of the body, it can result in problems such as loss of balance, impaired vision, skin rashes, and swelling in the glands, belly, or gums.
Impaired vision problems from AML are referred to as leukemic retinopathy. A person with leukemia can develop retinal hemorrhages, retinal vein obstructions that can lead to color blindness.
- Sickle cell anemia.
Sickle cell anemia disease is a disorder that causes red blood cells to become sickled (banana-shaped), as well as sticky and rigid. These sickle cells can block blood flow in small blood vessels of the body. The hemoglobin in blood cells carries oxygen to all areas of the body. Sickle cell patients can develop sickle cell retinopathy, where sickle cells block the small blood vessels in the eye depriving the eye of oxygen and causing damage.
TRAUMA OR ACCIDENTS
A traumatic incident or an accident can impact the optic nerve, retina, or affect particular areas of the brain or eye, which can lead to color blindness.
- Cerebral acromatopsia
CA is a type of color vision deficiency that is caused by damage to the cerebral cortex of the brain, rather than abnormalities in the cells of the eye’s retina. People affected with cerebral achromatopsia are perfectly aware of what they see; however, they are unable to imagine or remember colors. They see everything as a shade of gray.
Certain medications have been found to have definite ocular side effects and may pose a risk to the eye or visual system. Medications such as antibiotics, barbiturates, anti-tuberculosis drugs, high blood pressure medications, and several medications to treat nervous disorders may cause color blindness. Examples are:
Amiodarone (Cordarone) helps control heart rhythm in people with atrial fibrillation. It can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision changes or vision loss.
Ethambutol (Myambutol) and isoniazid (Nydrazid) are antibiotics prescribed together for tuberculosis. They can change your color vision and may narrow your field of vision.
Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) treats rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune disorders. It also treats malaria. Hydroxychloroquine can cause serious eye problems including damage to the optic nerve and retina and corneal deposits.
Sildenafil citrate (Viagra) and Tadalafil (Cialis) are often prescribed for men with erectile dysfunction. “These drugs divert blood flow away from the head. They can cause “blue” vision, because they interfere with neurotransmission within the retina.
Topiramate (Topamax) is used to treat seizure disorders, migraines, and mood disorders. It is known to cause acute glaucoma with extended use.
DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
Drug and alcohol abuse can produce a variety of ocular and neuro-ophthalmic side effects. Novel, so-called “designer,” drugs of abuse can lead to unusual eye disorders such as decreased color sensitivity.
- Crystalline retinopathy is a result of the use of intranasal (snorting) methamphetamine or cocaine A class of designer drugs, the alkyl nitrites, including isopropyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite,
- Retinal vascular occlusive disease is known to occur with many drugs of abuse that are intravenously injected, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and anabolic steroids.
Alcohol abuse is known to be a cause of age-related macular degenerations.
Some chemicals can damage the eyes. Industrial or environmental chemicals such as carbon monoxide, carbon disulphide, and some containing lead can cause color blindness.
Am I at risk for color blindness?
Men have a much higher risk than women for color blindness. You’re also more likely to have color blindness if you:
- Have a family history of color blindness
- Have certain eye diseases, like glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Have specific health problems, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Take certain medicines
- Are Caucasian
What are the symptoms of color blindness?
The main symptom of color blindness is that a person does not see colors the way most people do. If you’re color blind, you may have trouble seeing:
- The difference between colors
- How bright colors are
- Different shades of colors
Symptoms of color blindness are often so mild that you may not notice them. And since we get used to the way we see colors, many people with color blindness don’t know they have it.
People with severe cases of color blindness might have other symptoms, like quick side-to-side eye movements or sensitivity to light.
Testing for Color Vision is Important
Most color blindness conditions are genetic. Some color deficiencies, however, are due to disease processes. These problems due to disease processes are very often found when one notices changes in the color vision. Changes in color perception can be the first sign of diseases of the eye like cataracts or macular degeneration.
While there is currently no cure for inherited color blindness, those individuals with an acquired color vision deficiency may have their vision return to normal once the cause has been established and treated.
Dr. Thomas Azman has specialized in color vision for over 45 years and has treated people who suffer from red- green color blindness for over 20 years with his proprietary ColorCorrection System™. The system can change the wavelength of each color going into one or both eyes using eyeglasses or soft contact lenses. With an astonishing 100 percent success rate, Dr. Azman has helped people with colorblindness all over the world to pass many types of pseudoisochromatic plate tests.
Aren’t you ready to see the world in color? Contact us for treatment by calling (443) 470-9844, or filling out our contact form.