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What is Color Blindess? – Part II


Part I of this blog introduced vocabulary for the various types and severities of hereditary color deficiencies. Part II explains how, for the first time ever, we can help color deficient patients distinguish colors. Disclaimer: lots of doctor terminology ahead (but there’s no other way to explain it). If you only want to know how you can try out the extraordinary new color vision lens called EnChroma, available exclusively at Brookside Optometric Group, skip to the last 2 paragraphs below.

The terms indicating which retinal color receptors are defective are “deutan” for green and “protan” for red deficiencies. Severity is described by the designation as either “anomalous trichromat” for mild to moderate deficiencies or as “dichromat” for severe deficiencies. These labels matter because the different groups have different success rates with EnChroma.

What are the treatments for color vision deficiencies? As a researcher in color vision during my training at UC Berkeley, I can say that historically, we had no treatments to offer people with color deficiencies. All we could do was counsel people to avoid careers that required acute color vision.

Welcome to a new era in color vision treatment! An accidental discovery, followed by years of research to perfect it, is now available at Brookside Optometric Group. Called “EnChroma” lenses, these highly specialized filters enable people with color deficiencies to see and distinguish colors they’ve never been able to see before!

Dr. Vanover’s son was the first patient at Brookside Optometric to try EnChroma lenses. He told his dad that he never understood why people were so amazed by sunsets until he wore his EnChroma lenses and could see the vivid colors. Our son, Brian, has a mild color defect where he can’t see the difference between purple and royal blue, or tan and olive green. When he tried out the EnChroma lenses, his first reaction was, “Wow! Red is really bright.” Well yeah, Brian, it is!

So, how does EnChroma work its magic? Remember that there are 3 types of color receptors, blue, green and red? Color normal people sense all 3 separately:

In people with hereditary color deficiencies, the sensitivities of the green and red receptors overlap a little (anomalous trichromats) or a lot (dichromats), making many different colors appear the same:

The highly specialized filters in EnChroma lenses block out the overlapping portion of the green and red receptors, separating out their sensitivities so the receptors behave more those of color normal individuals:

The EnChroma lenses basically add back in some of the reds and greens that are missing in people with color deficiencies. For example, adding red to royal blue creates purple. Adding red to gray creates pink.

So what could EnChroma lenses do for someone with a color vision deficiency? EnChroma lenses improve color vision in everyone (including color normals!) but to a highly variable extent. Some folks have a dramatic increase in color perception: check out You Tube videos of EnChroma Glasses First Time and you will see grown men cry. Very moving! Other people, however, have little to no effect.

EnChroma glasses are most effective for anomalous trichromats (mild to moderate deficiencies). Dichromats (severe deficiencies) get the least effect. Deutan (green deficiencies) generally get more improvement than protan (red deficiencies). Keep in mind that these are generalizations and there is individual variability within each group.

Some other considerations are:

  • The effect is always greater with 20/20 vision, meaning a person with nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism will have a bigger color boost with prescription correction in the EnChroma lenses.
  • For certain types of color deficiencies, the improvement in color perception is not instantaneous but increases over a period of days or weeks.
  • The color enhancement is greater outdoors. EnChroma lenses look and function like sunglasses.

What should I do to find out if EnChroma lenses will work for me or a loved one? First, visit the EnChroma website and take the online color vision test. Then make an appointment at Brookside Optometric Group to try out the EnChroma lenses, including an eye examination if you haven’t had one recently (remember that the effect is greatest with 20/20 vision). Be sure to bring the results of your online color vision test to the appointment.

Brookside Optometric Group is thrilled to be able to bring you the latest innovation in color vision science. If you’ve always wondered what you are missing, call us for an EnChroma appointment.


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