Orange and green dots on paper with an ophthalmoscope resting on top

At a glance: Color Blindness

  • Symptoms:

    Trouble telling the difference between colors

  • Diagnosis:

    Color vision test

  • Treatment:

    Special glasses and contacts, visual aids

What is color blindness?

If you have color blindness, it means you see colors differently than most people. Most of the time, color blindness makes it hard to tell the difference between certain colors.

Usually, color blindness runs in families. There’s no cure, but special glasses and contact lenses can help. Most people who are color blind are able to adjust and don’t have problems with everyday activities.

What are the types of color blindness?

The most common type of color blindness makes it hard to tell the difference between red and green. Another type makes it hard to tell the difference between blue and yellow. People who are completely color blind don’t see color at all, but that’s not very common.

What are the symptoms of color blindness?

The main symptom of color blindness is not seeing colors the way most people do. If you’re color blind, you may have trouble seeing:

  • The difference between colors
  • How bright colors are
  • Different shades of colors

Symptoms of color blindness are often so mild that you may not notice them. And since we get used to the way we see colors, many people with color blindness don’t know they have it.

People with very serious cases of color blindness might have other symptoms, too — like quick side-to-side eye movements (nystagmus) or sensitivity to light.

Am I at risk for color blindness?

Men have a much higher risk than women for color blindness. You’re also more likely to have color blindness if you:

  • Have a family history of color blindness
  • Have certain eye diseases, like glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Have certain health problems, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Take certain medicines
  • Are white

If you think you may have color blindness, talk with your doctor about getting checked.

mother and her daughter smile for the camera

When to get your child tested

It can be tricky to diagnose color blindness in children. Kids who are color blind might try to hide it. But being color blind can make it harder to read off a chalkboard or do other activities, so it’s important to get your child tested if you’re concerned.

Get your child tested if they have a family history of color blindness or if they seem to be having trouble learning colors.

Ask your child’s eye doctor to test them. You also may be able to get your child tested at school.

What causes color blindness?

The most common kinds of color blindness are genetic, meaning they’re passed down from parents.

Color blindness can also happen because of damage to your eye or your brain. And color vision may get worse as you get older — often because of cataracts (cloudy areas in the lens of the eye).

person using a marker to draw question marks on glass in front of them

Did you know?

Everyone sees color a little differently — even people who aren’t color blind

About 1 in 12 men are color blind

Most people with color blindness are born with it, but sometimes it doesn’t show up until later in life

How can I find out if I have color blindness?

Your eye doctor can usually use a simple test to tell you if you’re color blind.

During the test, your eye doctor will show you a circle made of many different colored dots. The circle has a shape inside it that’s made out of dots — like a number, a letter, or a squiggly line. This shape is easy to see if you don’t have color blindness, but people who are color blind have a hard time seeing it.

What's the treatment for color blindness?

There’s no cure for color blindness that’s passed down in families, but most people find ways to adjust to it. Children with color blindness may need help with some classroom activities, and adults with color blindness may not be able to do certain jobs, like being a pilot or graphic designer. Keep in mind that most of the time, color blindness doesn’t cause serious problems.

If your color blindness is happening because of another health problem, your doctor will treat the condition that’s causing the problem. If you’re taking a medicine that causes color blindness, your doctor may adjust how much you take or suggest you switch to a different medicine.

If color blindness is causing problems with everyday tasks, there are devices and technology that can help, including:

glasses icon

Glasses and contacts. Special contact lenses and glasses may help people who are color blind tell the difference between colors.

visual aid icon

Visual aids. You can use visual aids, apps, and other technology to help you live with color blindness. For example, you can use an app to take a photo with your phone or tablet and then tap on part of the photo to find out the color of that area.

Talk over your options with your eye doctor. Remember these tips:

  • Ask your doctor about visual aids and technology that can help you with everyday tasks
  • Encourage family members to get checked for color blindness, since it can run in families
Last updated: July 3, 2019