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Color Blindness: Types, Symptoms, and What to Do

Men’s Health Month is also an opportune time to highlight color blindness, since the risk is much higher among men than women for the condition. People with color blindness have difficulty distinguishing between colors because some cones (nerve cells) in the eyes are missing or do not work correctly. The most common type makes it hard to differentiate between red and green. Another kind involves blue and yellow. Complete color blindness, where no colors are seen, is uncommon. In addition to difficulties seeing the differences between colors, symptoms can include trouble telling how bright colors are or detecting different shades. People with serious cases of color blindness may also have other symptoms, such as nystagmus (“quick side-to-side eye movements”) or light sensitivity. In addition to male gender, those who are at risk for color blindness are those with: a family history of the condition (it is most commonly genetic); eye diseases such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration; or health problems like diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, or multiple sclerosis (MS). Color blindness may also occur because of damage to the eyes or brain. The condition can be detected with a test given by an eye doctor. While there is no cure for genetic color blindness, it usually “doesn’t cause serious problems.” If there are problems with everyday activities, devices and technology can help, such as special contact lenses and glasses, visual aids, apps, and other technology. With the use of an app, for example, a photo taken by a phone or tablet can be tapped in a particular area to find out the color. For more information, read the pieces from: the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) entitled “At a glance: Color Blindness” and from the Cleveland Clinic on “Color Blindness.”