The story of a color blind child

Color blind

Photo courtesy of

It’s that time of year again. Every fall, our local doctors of optometry, along with school nurses and a plethora of volunteers, corral students through our Lions Club’s Sight Savers trailer performing vision screening. And, every fall I have concerned parents rushing in their children to confirm if there is an eye problem. This year was no different.

Last week I entered my exam room to see a first grader who, it was determined, was color blind. Of course, his father did not believe the testing was correct and proceeded to confirm that his son new ALL of his colors and that there was NO WAY he could be color blind. I pulled out my trusty color vision test; administered the test to the son; and showed that indeed he was color deficient. On one page of the test with the number “35”, a color deficient person would only be able to see one digit. The boy proudly and confidently proclaimed that the number on the page was “5”. Even with prodding and cajoling from the father, his son could only see the number “5”.

A little physiology lesson:

In the retina, there are two types of nerves – cones that see color, and rods that see light. The cones are further differentiated in to three types – one that is stimulated by red light, one by green light and one by blue light. In order to have “normal” color vision, all three cones need to be present. If one of the cones is missing, or more commonly not as sensitive, then the person would have confusion of certain colors. This student has a deficient green cone. I explained this condition to the father and the student and how it would affect him.

For instance:

If we have green paint and mix it with red paint, we make brown paint. (Green + Red = Brown)

If you cannot see the green, then red and brown look the same. (Green + Red = Brown)

If we mix green with blue, we make aqua. So, blue and aqua look the same. (Green + Blue = Aqua)

This confusion of colors is what is known as “color blindness” or more correctly “color deficiency”. I explained that it is important to let the teachers know so they do not grade down for improper answers, and discussed job restriction for color deficient people. The two most common job restrictions are law enforcement and commercial aviation. If a color deficient police officer was told a suspect has a brown coat on and stops someone with a red coat on, that just doesn’t work. I do have several patients who are pilots and are color deficient. They are able to get licensed to fly, but not to fly at night due to the need to differentiate the colored lights on airstrips – no commercial or airliner work.

Facts about color deficiencies:

  • The gene for color deficiency is carried on the X chromosome
  • Somewhere between 8 to 10 percent of the male population in the US is color deficient
  • Less than one half percent of the female population in the US is color deficient
  • Men cannot pass color deficiencies on to their sons; it passes through mothers who are carriers for the gene
  • The incidence of color deficiency is highest in Caucasians; then Asians, then Hispanics, and lowest in African Americans
  • Red-Green defects account for over 95 percent of color deficiencies
  • Blue-yellow color blindnessis a dominant, not sex linked trait, which means both men and women are equally affected.
  • John Dalton wrote the first known scientific paper (1794) regarding color blindness. He was color blind himself.
  • Color deficient people hate to be asked “What color is this?”

~ Steven Sage Hider, OD
California Optometric Association

How old is old enough for contacts?

Photo courtesy of Valley Eyecare Center

Photo courtesy of Valley Eyecare Center

In our last blog, Dr. Melissa Barnett shared some great ways to help children wear their glasses. These excellent points are sure to help increase glasses wear, but there is a good chance that the day will come when your child will decide to hit you up for contacts.

At what age is it appropriate to consider contacts?

Well, in our practice, age is nothing but a number. What really counts is the maturity of the child (i.e. personal hygiene), the willingness of the parent to play a supporting role and the child’s needs. As such, your optometrist might ask you and your child a few questions to help make that determination. For example, we might ask if the kid is mature enough to brush their teeth without being asked. Or, if he or she is good about keeping their room clean without being asked. Hey, I know what you are thinking, this probably rules out 95 percent of kids (and adults) but we have to start somewhere.

Why might my child need contacts?

New studies show that measures of self-esteem increase significantly in contact lens wearing teens and children. Additionally, a number of contacts lens brands offer ultraviolet (UV) protection. While I always encourage children to wear sunglasses, any form of UV protection is welcome, as UV exposure is known to cause certain eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. We also have to consider if the child plays sports. Contacts are great at improving peripheral vision and image stability and one can imagine what a difference contacts can make on an athlete’s performance.

Okay. What else do I need to know?

Once you have succumbed to your child’s incessant begging, you have to determine the safest and most fool-proof way to achieve a happy and safe experience with contacts. I can say firsthand, daily disposable contacts are almost always my first choice. My little brother started wearing contacts at 14 year old, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure he was ready so I started him with daily disposable lenses. As the name suggests, you chuck them on a daily basis. Thus, no solutions, no cleaning and fewer worries. The main concern we have is keeping our children from accidentally falling asleep in their lenses. Certainly, some children have prescriptions that are not available as daily disposables, but it is rare to find a young person who cannot be a contact lens wearer with a little work. In the end, contact lenses can be a safe and useful method for vision correction in children, provided that they follow the rules explained by their optometrists.

~ David C. Ardaya, O.D.
California Optometric Association

Vision therapy, you may need it if……

Vision therapy is a process in which we retrain the eyes and brain to work better together to more easily and efficiently capture visual information, processes it and have a good motor output. When over two thirds of the sensory information coming into the brain is processed through the visual system, it is imperative that all of the functions work as easily, as comfortably, and automatically as possible. Then, we can use more brain power for higher level interpretation of what we are seeing and learning.

Photo courtesy of digital kid2007 via Flickr

Photo courtesy of via Flickr

When eye tracking, eye teaming, eye focusing, visual information processing and visual motor integration are not working properly, these are some of the common problems that are noticed in the school setting and these are some of the signs that your child may need vision therapy:

  • Does your child seem to struggle with school work more than his peers?
  • Does a simple homework sheet seem to take hour and hours causing a “homework war” in the evening?
  • Does your child avoid reading? Or get headaches, double or blurry vision when doing near work?
  • Is your child not performing as well on reading and writing tasks as she does if she is read to?
  • Most importantly, is your child not performing to their potential in school or sports?
  • Having attention or behavioral problems in the classroom?

What about for us adults? Vision therapy is not just for kids.  With the use of computers and tablets and smartphones, adults can experience a multitude of visual problems that affect fatigue levels and performance at work that Vision Therapy can help eliminate.

  • Do you experience headaches after working on the computer?
  • Do you ever see double vision?
  • Does your vision get blurry on and off?
  • Do you ever have blurry vision driving home at night after working on the computer all day?
  • Do you find that you skip words or numbers while reading documents, spreadsheets, etc?

With any of these symptoms, a complete eye health and developmental vision evaluation can diagnose the specific problem, determine if vision is the cause and if vision therapy can help. At your next eye examination, let your COA optometrist know if you or your child are experiencing any of the above symptoms and ask if vision therapy will help. For more information on vision therapy and the signs and symptoms of vision related problems, visit


Lisa M. Weiss, OD, FCOVD
California Optometric Association

Common myths about eyeglasses debunked!

Photo courtesy of Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr.

As an optometrist, I often hear a variety of misconceptions about eyeglasses from my patients. Most concerns fall into a few broad categories with a few bizarre ones sprinkled in. I would like to take a brief moment to address some of the most common ones I hear:

  1. “Wearing glasses will make your eyes weaker.” This is probably the one myth I hear the most often and it is absolutely false. The biggest thing people forget to account for when they notice they are more reliant on their prescription glasses is that they are a bit older. As a person gets older, their ability to continue to see clearly without prescription glasses deteriorates. While this applies to everyone, it is most pronounced in my far-sighted patients in particular.
  2. “Not wearing your prescription glasses will make your eyes get worse.” This also is not true. Not wearing your glasses will not damage your eyes, but it can cause a significant amount of eyestrain. Extended viewing of computer monitors, smart phones, tablets or televisions without a proper prescription can lead to significant eyestrain and may cause you to discontinue viewing sooner than you planned.

    Photo Courtesy of TempusVolat on Flickr

    Photo Courtesy of TempusVolat on Flickr

  3. You can’t play sports with glasses on.” Not true! Glasses for sports can be made to protect your eyes and clear your vision at the same time. Protective lenses such as polycarbonate plastic can be put into sports goggles to allow a person to wear glasses when participating in sporting activities. Many patients prefer to wear contacts when they play sports, but it is a personal preference. Be sure to talk to your optometrist if you need specialty lenses for any of the activities you participate in.
  4. “Over the counter readers are just as good as prescription glasses.” This myth is not necessarily untrue. For a small group of patients, over the counter readers do work just as well as prescription reading glasses. The bad news is it’s an extremely small group of patients and those glasses work only when they are reading. Proper prescription glasses can correct each eye individually for the distance so both eyes are in focus and balanced. Once the eyes are balanced and working together, your optometrist can determine the proper power you need for your computer monitor or for reading materials. For the overwhelming majority of patients, there is a difference between the prescriptions between their eyes or some astigmatism in their correction that you cannot find in over the counter glasses.

I hope these answers help open your eyes to how prescription glasses can help you see clearly.

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association