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All colours are made up of a combination of the primary colours (red, green, blue and yellow) and our visual system normally determines a colour by recognising the balance between these primary colours.

Approximately 6% of males and 0.05% of females have a congenital fault in this discriminating ability. This is normally due to a fault in recognising the red / green balance, with poor recognition of either the red or green element. It may be a total or partial inability, resulting in poor colour recognition.

The term ‘colour blind’ does not mean someone only sees in black and white (this is an extremely rare condition) but generally means that their colour recognition is limited to some extent. If we consider all the colours of the spectrum a colour blind person would be poor at recognising different hues in certain areas of the spectrum. For instance, someone with a red deficiency will be poor at determining the difference between red, an orangey red, a reddy orange and orange. They are likely to recognise the colour red but more as a certain darkness. As they will have spent their life in this situation with their parents saying look at that red bus, phone box, door etc they will associate that ‘darkness’ with red, but miss the subtleties of the colour.

Ageing changes in the eye, in both the lens and the retina, can affect our colour vision. Sometimes illness in the eye or the body generally, particularly neural problems, can create colour vision problems, especially regarding the blue / yellow balance

 

Treatment

There is very little that can, or needs to, be done in such a case. There is some work done with tinted contact lenses to try to enhance awareness of the ‘missing’ colour but this has a very limited effect. Being aware when planning possible future occupations is important as a few may be inappropriate with colour problems. Without wishing to trivialise the situation often the greatest effect noticed by ‘colour blind’ people is frustration of a few fashion choice errors!

 

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