Ask The Doctor

Color Blindness vs. Poor Color Vision

Dear Dr. Garner,

My son is six years old, and his teacher tells us he is color blind.

I am also color blind. I feel very bad for my son, as I know it can cause limitations in what he can and cannot do in the future. I wanted to be a pilot with the U.S. Air Force but was rejected because of this condition.

Is there anything new out there that could help correct this problem?

Color Blind in Corona


Dear Color Blind,

You have given many genes to your son, however color blindness is not one of them. This gene is passed from mother to son, and I’d like to describe the condition so that our readers understand it better.

Being color blind means that there is total lack of color vision. There is absolutely no color one can see. This is very rare.

Most people who describe themselves as color blind actually have some color vision but cannot distinguish between colors. It is usually inherited. Men are more likely to be born with the condition – one out of 10, in fact.

Most people with poor color vision cannot distinguish between shades of red and green. Others cannot distinguish shades of blue and yellow or blue and green.

While there are certain medications that can cause poor color vision as a side effect, some people develop poor color vision from medical conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma or diabetes.

Learning Problems

The problem of poor color recognition can cause severe learning problems, which is why it is essential all children are checked for the condition as soon as possible.

The condition is diagnosed by a test and children should be tested at about age three or four. You are shown a set of colored dots and must try to figure out the pattern. You may be given color chips and asked to arrange them in an order that has the most similar colors together.

When someone is color blind, it means that the eye does not make all the pigments necessary to see color while developing.

People who are color blind tend to have vision that is not as sharp since the part of the eye that controls sharp vision is a part of the color system.

Curing color vision problems is currently impossible. Ninety-nine percent of color blind males and females are color blind as a result of gene mutations. For poor color vision, there are new types of contact lenses that have made it possible to provide color blind people with a greater ability to distinguish among certain shades that look the same. Ask your doctor about these new lenses.

Lifelong Condition

Color blindness is a lifelong condition. Most people are able to adjust to it without difficulty or disability.

The downside is that people who are color blind may not be able to get a job that requires the ability to see colors accurately. In addition to pilots, this might include electricians, painters and fashion designers.

The bottom line is that poor color vision is very common. The true color blind patient is extremely rare. Most afflicted with poor color vision can see colors.

It must be diagnosed as soon as possible as there are learning problems associated with the condition.

I hope this helps you to understand your condition and your son’s condition. It is important to visit your family doctor or ophthalmologist so your son can be evaluated and have this problem corrected as best as possible.

Thank you for your question, and best of luck to your son.[hr]

Dr. Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on The NET, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Channel 97 Time Warner and Channel 30 Cablevision.

Share this article with a friend.