We have all seen the videos on the internet where people who are colorblind put on a magical pair of glasses and suddenly they can see colors they could only imagine before. The videos are always very touching, especially when they involve young children. But do they work? If they do work, how do they work?
To understand how color blindness glasses work, one must know a little about the condition known as color deficiency. Our retinas contain structures known as rods and cones. Cones are responsible for color perception. Within these cones, there are photo pigments that respond to different wavelengths (color) of light that give rise to our perception of color. The most common color deficiency is red-green. There are three main types of color blindness and severity of the deficiency can range from mild to severe. Color deficiencies can affect peoples’ daily and professional lives. For example, some may find it hard to read color-coded charts, maps, or put together matching outfits. People with typical color vision may view anywhere from 1-7 million distinct colors, while people with color deficiencies may only see about 10% of those colors.
According to EnChroma, a major manufacture of these glasses, the underlying cause of most color vision deficiencies is an abnormal overlapping response to light by specialized cells in the retina, called cone photoreceptors. This problem most often affects cone cells that normally are sensitive to either red or green wavelengths of light, causing “red-green color blindness.” The lenses are designed to increase the contrast between red and green light signals. This allows for a greater amount of color discrimination, and thus increased color perception. Therefore, these glasses increase a person’s contrast of colors but do not allow the wearer to see colors the same way someone with normal color vision does.
In fact, a person with typical color vision will notice a change in color perception when they put these glasses on. This is because the lenses are colored, which will change the way color is viewed for anyone. Turning up the contrast on your television, or other electronic device, would have a similar effect, as it increases the contrast between wavelengths and changes the color perception for anyone that views it.
Testing for color vision deficiencies is one aspect of a comprehensive eye examination and the doctors at Columbia Eye Consultants Optometry would be happy to answer any of your questions regarding color vision.
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