What's in a Color?

When you look at any object, it reflects light at different electromagnetic wavelengths. As the light enters the eye, those wavelengths are interpreted by our brains as color. The Orlando ophthalmologist team at Magruder are here to highlight the most interesting facts on color and different disorders that may distort what you’re able to see.

Humans can see only a small spectrum of visible light, which we know as the outer bands of a rainbow: red and violet. Beyond red is infrared, which humans cannot see but can feel as heat. On the far side, the rainbow’s visible colors are ultraviolet. As with infrared, these colors are not visible to humans. Although, many pollen gatherers like bees and birds are able to see in ultraviolet.

The light we are able to perceive is carried from the eye to the brain via photoreceptors and neurons, while our ability to recognize color is made possible by light-sensitive pigments located in photoreceptors known as cones. The majority of cones lie within the macula, which gives the highest degree of visual clarity. Each cone is specific to three wavelengths of color: red, green and blue. However, if a light-sensitive pigment is absent from the cones, one of the primary colors will not appear.

Ironically, many people are considered colorblind although they are able to see multiple colors. More accurately, these individuals have a color-vision deficiency in which they are unable to distinguish certain shades. Color vision deficiency generally affects both eyes if it is inherited, and only one eye if caused by an injury or illness. Diseases that may cause color vision deficiency include: glaucoma, diabetes, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or leukemia.

Patients who experience any form of color vision deficiency will have the same amount of deficiency throughout their lives; it will generally not alter at any given time until they are elderly. Call the Orlando ophthalmologist experts at 407-843-5665 for a vision appointment if you believe your child may have a color vision deficiency, and read our blogs for information on the latest technology to treat many of the problems associated with poor vision.