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  • Writer's pictureAtanas Bogoev M.D. and Maria Cholakova

Color Blindness Causes and Coping Strategies

Color blindness alters the ability of the colorblind to perceive colors accurately. While it may seem like a minor inconvenience, color blindness can affect daily activities and quality of life. From distinguishing traffic lights to choosing matching clothes, those with color vision deficiencies often face unique challenges.

Understanding the causes, obtaining an accurate diagnosis, and learning effective coping strategies are crucial for managing this condition. That's why here we explore the underlying reasons for color blindness. As well as outline the diagnostic procedures, and offer practical advice for those navigating life with altered color perception.

Daltonism vs normal vision

Causes of Color Blindness

Color blindness is a condition where the affected individuals have difficulty telling colors apart. That's due to anomalies in the photoreceptor cells of the retina. Severity can range from mild to severe and primarily affects the perception of red, green, or blue hues.

Color blindness can be inherited from birth or acquired later in life.

The majority of cases are inherited and result from genetic mutations.

1. Inherited Color Blindness

Inherited color blindness tends to be passed down through the X chromosome. That is why men are more likely to be colorblind than women.

A woman would need to inherit the defective gene from both parents to be colorblind. While a man only needs to inherit it from his mother. That explains the higher prevalence in men.

According to statistics, the prevalence of color blindness among men is approximately 8%, so 1 in 12 men are affected. In contrast, the prevalence among women is about 0.5%, or 1 in 200 women.

prevalence in color blindness statistics

2. Acquired Color Blindness

Acquired color blindness means the cause is external. It can result from various factors, including:

  • Aging

  • Diseases

  • Medications

  • Chemical Exposure

As people age, the lens of the eye turns more yellow (cataract), affecting color perception. Diabetes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and optic nerve diseases can impair color vision, too.

Medications for heart problems, high blood pressure, and infections, can also cause color vision changes. Last but not least, exposure to chemicals like carbon disulfide and styrene may affect color vision.

Getting the Diagnosis

People born with color blindness often don't realize they see the world differently. That's because they have no perception of the colors other people see. Many colorblind individuals are well adapted to living with the condition and rarely realize the challenges they face.

color blindness examples

Those who wonder or start to question their ability to tell colors apart can go to an ophthalmologist for diagnosis. All tests are easy, non-invasive, and straightforward.

Common diagnostic tools include the Ishihara test, which uses colored dot patterns; the anomaloscope, which measures color matching ability; and the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test, which evaluates hue discrimination.

Accurate diagnosis is fundamental to recognizing colorblind challenges and developing more effective coping strategies.

Living with Color Blindness

While there is no cure for color blindness, various strategies exist to manage the condition.

Assistive Technology

Advancements in technology have led to the development of various tools and apps assisting colorblind individuals:

  • Color identification apps

  • Special lenses

Color identification apps use the camera on a smartphone to identify and name colors. Some examples are Color Blind Pal (for Android & iOS), Chromatic Vision Simulator (for Android & iOS), and Color Name AR (for iOS). Find them on Google Play or the App Store.

Some companies offer glasses and contact lenses which enhance color perception for certain types of color blindness. For example, EnChroma, Pilestone, and Colorlite.

Coping Strategies

Adopting practical coping strategies can improve daily life for those with color blindness.

  • Labeling

  • Texture and brightness

Labeling clothing or using a color-coded organization system can help with wardrobe choices. Relying on texture and brightness can also aid in distinguishing items that would otherwise appear similar in color.

Education and Awareness

Educating friends, family, and colleagues about color blindness fosters a more supportive environment.

Awareness can lead to accommodations in school and the workplace. For example, using high-contrast materials and avoiding color-coded instructions.

Impact of Color Blindness on Career Choices

Color blindness can influence career choices in fields where accurate color perception is crucial.

Professions such as graphic design, electrical work, and piloting may pose challenges for the colorblind. However, many other careers don't require precise color vision and can be pursued without issue.

Research and Future Directions

Ongoing research aims to better understand and eventually treat color blindness.

Recent advances include:

  • Gene therapy

  • Adaptive optics

Experimental treatments involving gene therapy show promise in restoring color vision in animal models. While not yet available for humans, such research offers hope for future interventions. There are also techniques like adaptive optics being explored to correct color vision deficiencies.


Checked by Atanas Bogoev, MD.

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