UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
What is color blindness, how can you tell when you get it and are there any treatments to get rid of it?
Answer 1:

This is a very good question. I have wondered the same thing since a few of my friends are color blind. Color blindness is when a person can not see the full set of colors. In order to understand why someone is color blind it is important to know how a person with regular vision sees colors. There are many molecules in your eyes whose job is to help you see color. These molecules are proteins that live inside cells called CONE CELLS. Cone Cells are found in your eye. They can absorb different colors of light when light, allowing you to see all the different colors of the rainbow. The proteins inside the cone cells are made from genes in your DNA. If one of the genes that make a cone protein is broken then you can not use that protein and can not see the color it sees.

But why are the proteins inside the cone cell of one person broken and the next person not broken? In other words, how do people become color blind? All of our genes come from our parents. Sometimes, if one of your parents genes are broken then you also have that broken gene. So, you may have the broken cone protein gene from the beginning of your life. That means that you will not be able to see colors as well as someone whose cone gene is not broken. Also, you can hurt your eyes with chemicals or maybe in an accident but this is unlikely.

There are lots of different types of color blindness in different people. Mostly people have a hard time seeing the difference between red and green and that is how doctors can test to see if you are color blind. Ask your teacher if she can help you take a test on this website


This will help you understand how the world looks through peoples eyes that are color blind. Luckily there is a group of scientist that is very close to finding a cure for colorblindness. They work in Washington and in Florida. In their experiment they were able to cure monkeys that were color blind. It will take more time to make sure the cure works on humans but we are closer than ever.

Keep up the curiosity-

Answer 2:

Hi there! Thanks for your question! To understand colorblindness, we must understand a little about how the eye works and a little bit about light.

The human eye has a lining on its back surface that detects light. The lining is made up of several special cell types called neurons. The neurons that specifically sense light are called "photoreceptor cells". The photoreceptors come in 2 kinds: the "rods" and "cones". The rod cells work best in low-light conditions, and provide mostly back-and-white vision. The cones on the other hand work well in bright light and can detect colors. There are 3 different kinds of cones, and they respond each best to different colors. If you have ever seen a "spectrum" of light, it looks like a rainbow, spanning from red to violet.

Light travels like a wave, and the waves of different colors carry different energy, so they have different "wavelengths"; violet has the shortest wavelength and carries the most energy, while red has the longest wavelength and so the least amount of energy. This explanation of light and wavelengths is just to explain that the 3 types of cone cells are named S (for Short wavelengths of light, like violet), M (for Medium wavelengths like green) and L (for, you guessed it, Long wavelengths of light like red). The cones are very complex in design, and have in them special molecules called "photopigments". These photopigments can respond to a tiny bit of light, and are the beginning of a process to translate the light into an electrical signal that is then sent to other neurons, and eventually to the brain where we figure out what our eyes are seeing!

When there are problems with the cones, people can have problems with their color vision. This is called "color-blindness". Most color blindness has a genetic cause, meaning that people are born with changes in their DNA code that will cause problems with their cone cells.

There are 3 different classifications of colorblindness: monochromacy, dichomacy and "anomalous trichromacy". Monochromacy is rare, and is also called "total color blindness". It occurs when 2-3 of the cone types are missing or don't work at all. Dichromacy is more common, and is when one of the cone types is absent or not functioning. For example, someone with this might not be able to tell green and red apart because they lack green (M) cones. Anomalous trichromacy is more common yet, and it occurs when one of the 3 types of cones has an altered (or "anomalous") sensitivity or response to light. This result is a milder color-blindness, such as having a difficult time distinguishing red and green hues. Some types of dichromacy and anomalous trichomacy occur more often in males.

Doctors, especially eye specialists, can test for color blindness. They might use a test where the patent tries to see a colored pattern, like a number, in a colored field of spots. If they cannot see the number, it means they have a difficult time distinguishing certain colors from each other. Different colored tests can help to distinguish which type of color blindness the patient has. Tests like this can be found in books and online


but everyone should go to their doctor for a real test if they are concerned about color blindness.

There are no known cures for color blindness, but most people are able to adapt and function fine with some deficiency in distinguishing colors. Some careers, such as pilot, may require unimpaired color vision. It is important that people keep in mind people with color-blindness when they are designing illustrations, especially in PowerPoint presentations and scientific figures.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use