Colorblindness affects one in 12 men and one in 200 women, or around 300 million people worldwide. Almost 95% of people with this condition are male, while only 5% are female. 98% of people with color blindness have red-green color blindness, which is passed down through the mother on the X-chromosome.
What Gene Causes Colorblindness?
Red-green color blindness is passed down through the mother from a sex-linked genetic mutation on the OPN1LW or OPN1MW gene. Since females have two X chromosomes, a woman won’t display the mutation if she inherits one normal X chromosome and one with the mutation since it’s recessive. Since males don’t have a second X chromosome to override the one with the mutation, they have a higher risk of being colorblind.
Facts about Colorblindness
– Red-green color blindness is the common name for the two most common types called Deutan and Protan. This name comes from the fact that red and green are the two colors that are hardest to distinguish by people with colorblindness who have either of these conditions.
– Red-green color blindness is caused by a defect in a person’s light-sensitive cone cells. The green-sensing M cone and the red-sensing L cone’s spectral sensitivities overlap more than they would in a person with normal vision. This causes colors to appear differently for them.
– Babies are actually born colorblind, but they typically have normal vision by the age of 6 months as their vision improves.
– Some people only have colorblindness in one eye and normal vision in the other. This is called unilateral dichromacy, which is extremely rare.
- Famous colorblind people include Bing Crosby, Mark Zuckerberg, and Howie Mandel.
- On the atoll of Pingelap in the Pacific Ocean, 4.9% of the population has achromatopsia or complete color blindness. In the US, only .0003% of the population has this condition.
– To a person with normal vision, a rainbow features all the colors of the rainbow. For many colorblind people, however, they will only see 2 or 3 colors, usually blue and yellow.
- To a colorblind person, the green light on a stoplight may look white or blue, while the red and yellow lights will look similar to each other.
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Glasses that “Unlock” Color Vision
Even though there is no treatment or cure for colorblindness, one company called EnChroma makes special lenses and glasses for those with the condition. Based in Berkeley, California, their patented lens technology combines color perception neuroscience with the latest in lens innovation. The glasses were invented by EnChroma co-founder, Don McPherson, a Ph.D. glass scientist, and UC Berkeley trained mathematician.
Fascinatingly, he discovered this technology accidentally while designing tinted laser glasses to protect the eyes of surgeons. One day, Don’s colorblind friend tried them on while they were playing frisbee outdoors. He saw the color orange for the first time, which led Don to develop the revolutionary EnChroma glasses!
How do the glasses work?
According to their website: “EnChroma develops optical lens technology that selectively filters out wavelengths of light at the precise point where this confusion or excessive overlap of color sensitivity occurs. The M and L cones are altered in such a way that there is a greater amount of difference in color discrimination along the so-called “confusion line” for that individual.”
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The lens technology increases the contrast between the red and green color signals, which alleviates colorblindness and allows the user to see all colors. The company has more than 10 years of clinical research under its belt. Today, it continues to bring new products to the market to help those with color blindness.
According to the company’s VP of marketing, Katherine O’Connor, people with normal vision see about a million shades of color. However, those with color blindness may see only 2-10% of those colors, and they often appear muted or not as distinguishable.