What happens when you think you have worn the right colored apparel but end up wearing something totally mismatched? Usually there’s a moment of awkward silence then, “What are you wearing?”. This is especially the case if the colors are screaming out loud!
But sometimes colorblindness is the real cause of the awkward silence as some people are not able to differentiate between certain colors. Is this an eye or a brain problem? Dr. Wang Lan, an Ophthalmologist at the Beijing United Family Hospital clarifies some common misconceptions about color blindness.
What is color blindness?
Color blindness is when someone cannot differentiate all colors (monochromats) or some colors (red, green, or blue) (dichromats and/or trichromats).
If there are different types of color blindness, what are the types?
Monochromats can only see white, black and gray. But most color blindness cases can see some color but not other color; or he/she may see color differently from others.
What are the causes of color blindness?
Most color blindness is a congenital and inherited problem, although some other diseases can cause color problem later on, for instance glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and so on.
Normally people have three types of cone cells in the eye. Each type senses either red, green, or blue light. Inherited color blindness happens when you don’t have one of these types of cone cells or they don’t work right.
Genetics play the central role in circuitry (this refers to the neural system) for color vision . Gene deficiency on X-chromosome causes the color blindness. It is a sex-linked X-chromosome recessive disease. Mother is always the carrier of the defected gene on X-chromosome; the son is the one who is affected. (It is sex-linked recessive in man).
What type of testing is done to know if someone is colorblind?
Pseudo-isochromatic plate or color blindness test book can detect color blindness. It is a set of different colored dots, lines and shape. Normally one should be able to tell the number or pattern in them. If one cannot tell some or all patterns, doctor knows which colors he/she has trouble with.
What signs should parents look out for? (Kind of like the symptoms)
If your child tells a color differently from others, or if he/she has difficulty identifying color, then you should take him/her to get a color vision test done in a hospital.
Is color blindness treatable?
Inherited color vision problems cannot be treated. Some acquired color vision can be cured, for instance, cataracts.
If a child is color blind, what are the daily challenges he/she is likely to experience?
Color blindness can make learning and reading hard for children, which can lead to poor schoolwork. And some careers are not suitable for those people, for instance medical related area, art and so on.
What advice would you give to parents on how to deal with a colorblind child?
If color blindness affects a child’s daily life, then wearing colored contact lenses may help the child see differences between colors. Wearing special glasses with color filter can also help.
Here are some tips to help children with color blindness in the classroom that can be replicated at home:
- Label art supplies. You can make art projects easier by labeling individual crayons, markers, colored pencils, and paints with the color they are.
- Teach kids what color common things are. Although colorblind kids cannot distinguish between colors, knowing what colors common things are may help them develop a frame of reference for colors. You may want to teach young children that bananas are yellow, the sky is blue, and grass is green. This will also aid kids when they color pictures as they will know that they should use the crayon labeled “green” to color grass.
- If you choose to color code things in the classroom, label them with the color they are. For instance, if you want kids to put blocks in a red box and arts and crafts supplies in a blue box, label the red box “red” and the blue box “blue,” so that colorblind children can distinguish between them.
- Xerox workbook and textbook pages that have colored ink on them. Xeroxing workbook and textbook pages in black and white will provide better contrast for colorblind children.
- Use white chalk when you write on the chalkboard instead of colored chalk. White chalk on a green chalkboard provides the best contrast.
- If you are working with older colorblind students, make your PowerPoint presentations are in black and white as well.
- Have your class work in pairs or small groups for color-dependent activities, such as sorting objects by color, counting the number of different colored items, or deciphering graphs or pie charts.
- Educate your class on colorblindness. There are tests you can use to help students understand how a colorblind kid sees differently than those with normal color vision. Educating your students about colorblindness may reduce the likelihood of colorblind children being picked on or bullied.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia commons and Johannes Ahlmann (Flickr)
Dr. Wang is from China and speaks English and Mandarin. She has over 20 years experience in ophthalmology and specializes in glaucoma and cataracts. Dr. Wang graduated from Beijing Medical University with a degree in Clinical Medicine, later receiving her Master of Ophthalmology, as well as her doctorate, from Capital Medical University. She has done research and fellowships in the US on glaucoma.