The 7 Best Color Blind Glasses
Who Can See for Miles
For the most part, the entire world is set up to accommodate the needs and everyday life of people who can see.
The human body is an amazingly complex machine. It's evolved to adapt to conditions that almost no other being can tolerate, possibly excluding cockroaches. And while we've climbed atop the food chain and directly countered natural selection's unfeeling hand, it hasn't been easy. A large part of what makes humans so capable is the variety of ways in which we observe the world, even before we use our relatively massive prefrontal cortex to make sense of all that information.
Among the most important ways we soak in our surroundings is the sense of sight. For the most part, the entire world is set up to accommodate the needs and everyday life of people who can see. It's difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to imagine what it's like to live without sight. But what if we could see almost everything, except one or two particular colors? What impact would that have on day-to-day life?
Color blindness has been around for just as long as Homo Sapiens have, though like most ailments, we've only learned generally how it works in the last few decades. Researchers have determined that it's primarily a genetically induced condition, controlled by an allele located on humans' X chromosome. This explains why the disease affects somewhere from 10 to 20 times as many males as it does females. Even though it's a recessive gene, when a male inherits it, he lacks another X chromosome that may contain a dominant allele that could supersede the afflicted one, leaving the colorblind coding free to affect eyesight development. Furthermore, those of mostly European ancestry are roughly twice as likely to inherit the gene as those of any other regional descent, making this one of the few modern afflictions (of any type: medical, psychological, or societal) that actually does seem to mostly afflict white males. So when someone is a recipient of this unfortunately defective allele, what exactly happens, and why can't that person see certain colors?
Behind Blue Eyes
In order to understand color blindness, you must first understand how the eyes, as well as light itself operates. Visible light, of course, is simply a spectrum of electromagnetic waves, just like entertaining radio waves, harmless microwaves, and dangerous gamma rays. The human eye can register a tiny sliver of the overall electromagnetic spectrum, and it shows up in our field of vision as colors starting at red and ascending in frequency to violet.
When it doesn't work right, we have a general idea of what's happening, and also a few insights on how to fix it.
Ancient physicians believed that vision was a nearly magical ray of substance, projected outward from the eyeball. Today we know that sight occurs as light enters the eye, and the lens refracts and focuses that light on the retina, the actual point of contact between electromagnetic radiation and the nervous system. Inside the retina are the workhorses of mammalian vision, photoreceptors known as rods and cones. These cells register the energy levels of present photons and convert them into electrical signals that travel down the optic nerve, to the occipital lobe, where the brain translates the data into viewable images.
Responsible for black and white vision as well as general contrast, rod cells are located mostly on the outer portion of the mostly round retina. These are the most photosensitive cells, able to sense light at remarkably low thresholds. This is why night vision is superior on the peripherals of human vision, which anyone can personally investigate as they sneak around in the dark. Looking slightly to the side of where you're focused will give you more effective night vision than staring straight ahead. That's because in the very center of the retina are cone cells, which enable the detection of color. There are three types of cones — red, green, and blue — and they're somewhere around 1 percent as sensitive to low light as rod cells are. For that reason, the brighter our environment, the better our color detection is.
So, we know how the eye works. When it doesn't work right, we have a general idea of what's happening, and also a few insights on how to fix it.
Eyesight To The Blind
While it has multiple known causes, total color blindness is incredibly rare. Most people know that dogs can't see color, but that's simply because they lack the necessary cone cells to begin with. Complete monochromacy, as it's called, is almost unheard of among humans. The most common type of color blindness, classified as trichromacy, stems from a single type of cone malfunctioning, causing the electrical signals to leave the retina distorted or overlapping. This bad info entering the brain leads to slightly imbalanced impressions of the aforementioned electromagnetic waves. That being said, while we know the "how" of color blindness, the "why" still eludes researchers somewhat; we're able to observe what happens to the occipital system, but we're still learning exactly why it works that way. However, that doesn't stop talented medical engineers from trying to fix the problem and improve countless lives.
Luckily, those incredibly intelligent researchers are constantly gathering data on this biological phenomenon. We've reached the point where we know, based on a patient's personal color-vision abilities, which cones are malfunctioning, and where their signals overlap. This enables optometric engineers to develop a range of lenses to allow afflicted people to see properly. Not entirely unlike your TV's on-screen display, these specialty glasses are able to filter out a user's specific overlapping frequencies, unmasking colors that the person literally had never before seen in their entire life.
As shown by extensive video evidence of patients' first time wearing these special glasses, providing someone with true-to-life eyesight for the first time ever tends to be an incredibly moving and meaningful experience. And as medical technology marches ever onward, we can only expect to treat color blindness more and more effectively as we further understand its causes.