Color blindness is still a very poorly described condition. It is, in fact, not a blindness at all but a deficiency, as over 99% of people who suffer from it can see some sort of color. Amazingly, over 8% of men and 0.5% of women suffer from one type of color vision deficiency (CVD). There are three main versions that present themselves due to problems with the cone shaped photoreceptors in our eyes:
- Protanopia/Protanomaly, meaning a missing/malfunctioning L-Cone (red)
- Deuteranopia/Deuteranomaly, meaning a missing/malfunctioning M-Cone (green)
- Tritanopia/Tritanomaly, meaning a missing/malfunctioning S-Cone (blue)
Depending on whether the cone is missing completely or just not working properly, the deficiency is named either a Dichromatism or Anomalous trichromatism but there is also a very very small percentage of the population that presents a full Monochromatism, leaving an absence of color.
Thanks to the great simulator at color-blindness.com, we’re able to see what things would look like through the different types.
1/ The most common type of CVD is a type of deuteranomaly that many people don’t even know they have.
2/ It presents itself in around 4.5% of men, and 0.4% of women. Because it only dulls the color pallette, it is undiagnosed in much of the population.
3/ Protanopia, a form of red-green CVD is much more pronounced. It presents itself in just over 1% of men and a small fraction of women.
4/ In very rare cases, people experience Tritanopia, which is a missing S-cone and causes everything to take a green/pink hue. Blues are often indistinguishable from greens.
5/ Tritanopia only presents in 0.0001% of men and women, though obviously it would be a difficult disorder to deal with.
6/ Some people even deal with Monochromacy, which is the complete lack of color. This causes them to see the world in black and white, like many believe “color blindness” means.
8/ As you can see, people experiencing different kinds of CVD can have trouble distinguishing things. Imagine not knowing which is your favorite team on the field.
9/ People often have trouble dealing with ripeness of fruits and vegetables as well, as the subtle differences are lost on them. They adapt and look for markers distinct from color.
10/ Protan, Deutan and Tritan, the roots of the three different cones come from the Greek words for first, second and third.
12/ Although many see it as a handicap, others might view it as just a new way to see and experience the world.