Color blindness : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Color deficiency, Blindness – color

Definition

Color blindness is the inability to see certain colors in the usual way.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Color blindness occurs when there is a problem with the color-sensing materials (pigments) in certain nerve cells of the eye. These cells are called cones. They are found in the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye.

If you are missing just one pigment, you might have trouble telling the difference between red and green. This is the most common type of color blindness. Other times, people have trouble seeing blue-yellow colors. People with blue-yellow color blindness almost always have problems identify reds and greens, too.

The most severe form of color blindness is achromatopsia. A person with this rare condition cannot see any color. Achromatopsia is often associated with lazy eye, nystagmus (small, jerky eye movements), severe light sensitivity, and extremely poor vision.

Most color blindness is due to a genetic problem. (See: X-linked recessive) About 1 in 10 men have some form of color blindness. Very few women are color blind.

The drug hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) can also cause color blindness. It is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, among other conditions.


Review Date : 4/13/2009
Reviewed By : Paul B. Griggs, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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