3 Types Of Color Blindness In Child, Causes, And Treatment

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Color blindness in children could lead to an inability to identify certain colors. They may have difficulty distinguishing between green, yellow, red, or blue colors. This condition is also called color vision deficiency due to a defect or damage to the color-sensing pigments in the nerve cells.

A child with color blindness may lack one or more sensing pigments. While those who lack one color pigment may see other colors, they may still face trouble identifying red, green, blue, or yellow. In severe color blindness, everything is visible in shades of gray. This condition is called achromatopsia.

This post elaborates on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for color blindness.

Types Of Color Blindness

Color blindness can be of different types. The following types of color blindness are seen in children (1).

1. Red-green color blindness

Red-green color blindness is the most common type of color blindness and is known to affect one in 12 men and one in 200 women (2). Children with red-green color blindness may find it difficult to distinguish between red and green. This color deficiency can further be classified into the following types:

  • Deuteranomaly: This is the most common type of red-green color deficiency, and it makes green look redder. Deuteranomaly is mild and does not affect children’s normal activities.
  • Protanomaly is a condition in which children see red as greener and less bright. This is also a mild condition and does not affect normal activities.
  • Deuteranopia is when the child is totally unable to distinguish between green and red pigments.
  • Protanopia refers to blindness to red.

2. Blue-yellow color blindness

Blue-yellow color blindness is less common. In this condition, the child cannot distinguish between blue and green and between yellow and red. Blue-yellow color blindness can be of the following types.

  • Tritanomaly: This is a condition in which a child cannot differentiate between blue and green and also yellow from red.
  • Tritanopia: In this condition, a child cannot differentiate between blue and green, red and purple, and pink and yellow. The condition can also make colors look less bright for the child.

3. Complete color blindness

Children with complete color blindness or achromatopsia cannot see any colors. This condition, also known as monochromacy, is extremely rare. Sensitivity to light and lack of clear vision can also be associated with this condition. They may see everything in grey.

Risks And Causes Of Color Blindness

A lack or deficiency of color-sensitive cells in the eyes causes color blindness. Children with color blindness generally inherit it from their parents (genetic). It is passed down from the parents in the X-linked inheritance pattern, meaning from the parents to the children on the X chromosome. It mainly affects boys, and their mothers can be carriers of defective genes (2).

Fathers with color blindness can pass down this condition to their children only if the mother also has a genetic fault. Girls are affected only if the mother is a carrier, and the father is color blind. Sometimes, this condition may skip a generation. For example, a grandfather and grandson may have color blindness(2).

In some rare cases, the following factors can lead to color blindness in later life (2).

  • Exposure to styrene and carbon disulfide
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma, cataract, and multiple sclerosis
  • Side effects of certain medications such as digoxin, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and phenytoin
  • Injury to the eye

Symptoms Of Colorblindness In Children

Difficulty in distinguishing colors is the primary symptom of color blindness. A child with color blindness can make mistakes identifying colors. The following symptoms are usually seen in children with color blindness (3).

  • Using wrong colors on coloring worksheets
  • Often using dark colors inappropriately
  • Difficulty identifying colors in dim or low lights
  • Problems distinguishing colors of the same hue and small areas of color
  • Problems paying attention while coloring
  • Issues identifying green or red pencils or any colored pencil with a green or red composition, such as brown and purple
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Smelling the food before eating
  • A good sense of smell
  • Excellent night vision
  • Difficulty reading colored pages or worksheets with colors
  • Complaining about a headache or eye pain while looking at something with a red or green background
  • Hesitancy to play sorting or counting games with color beads and blocks

Seek medical care if you notice any of these symptoms in your child, and never ignore a symptom considering it to be laziness or lack of interest in the activity.

Diagnosis Of Color Blindness

Ophthalmologists diagnose color blindness in children. Eye examinations for diagnosing color blindness are often done using a book with several colored dots and patterns. Unfortunately, children with color blindness fail to identify certain patterns (4).

Young children are often asked to arrange colored chips or pencils according to the color order. Color deficiency can have a big impact on a child’s life and also limit certain career options. Vision screening is recommended before schooling since knowing the problems can help the parents and teachers make necessary changes.

Treatment For Color Blindness In Children

There is no known treatment for inherited color blindness, and it is a lifelong condition. Some acquired color deficiencies can be treated depending on the cause. For example, cataract removal surgery can restore normal vision if cataract is the cause of color blindness.

The following ways may help children with color blindness (5).

  • Colored contact lenses and glasses may help children differentiate between colors. These may work for certain types of color blindness.
  • Wearing anti-glare glasses may help some children distinguish colors. Less brightness and glare may improve color vision.

In addition to these, children with color blindness can be encouraged to learn cues such as brightness and location rather than colors. For example, they can learn the order of the three colors on a traffic signal.

How To Help A Child With Color Blindness?

Seeking early medical care is the best way to help children with color blindness. Consider the following tips to help a child with color blindness (5).

  • Inform the teachers about the condition so that they can plan the lessons accordingly.
  • Label color markers, color pencils, crayons, etc., to help the child do coloring activities.
  • Ensure to provide reading materials with black letters in white background. Colored letters and pages can cause reading difficulties.
  • Teach the child the colors of common objects. This may help the child when there’s a discussion about colors.

Can Color Blindness Affect A Child’s Future?

Many children can adapt to color blindness by using cues such as location and brightness. They can also work and have a better quality of life with proper training from a young age. However, color blindness can limit their ability or make it difficult for them to take up certain activities and jobs (4).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. At what age should a child be tested for color blindness?

Children may be tested for color blindness at the age of four years (6).

2. Is color blindness a disability?

Color blindness is not considered a disability (7).

3. Does color blindness affect learning?

Color blindness may affect school performance in children. Schools often use vivid colors to make learning interesting for children. They may also use various pictorial and graphical representations to ease understanding. However, color blindness goes undiagnosed in early childhood, and such children may find it difficult to follow classroom lessons (8).

Color blindness in children can be red-green, blue-yellow, or complete color blindness, in which case they only see grey. So, if you observe any symptoms of color blindness in your child or if your child complains of them, have them tested for color vision. Early childhood screening can be advantageous because you can start teaching your child about colors at a young age. Colored contact lenses and anti-glare glasses may aid in color differentiation and vision improvement. Further, getting aid from their parents and teachers and appropriate career guidance can help children learn well and have a promising future.

Key Pointers

  • Color blindness in children can be of three types, red-green color blindness, blue-yellow color blindness, and complete color blindness.
  • It may be caused by injury, side effects of certain medications, diabetes, exposure to styrene, and color-sensitive cells in the eye.
  • You may notice your child using the wrong colors or having difficulty identifying the colors, sensitivity to bright lights, and more.
  • You can help them by making them use color contact lenses and anti-glare glasses.

References:

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Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more

Dr. Jessica Madden

(MD, FAAP, IBCLC)
Jessica Madden is a pediatrician, neonatologist, lactation consultant, and mother of four, who has been taking care of newborns since 2001. She works as a neonatologist in the NICU at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and founded Primrose Newborn Care, a newborn medicine and “4th trimester” home-visiting and telemedicine practice, in 2018.  Dr. Madden is a Fellow... more

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