What is colour blindness?

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MOST people take the ability to see life in bright colours for granted. They make sure the colours of their clothing match, get hungry at the sight of a delicious red velvet cake and enjoy all the colours of nature. But for some 180 million people around the world, this colour experience remains partially or completely hidden – they either have a red-green colour deficiency or blindness, have greatly reduced colour vision, or in very rare cases cannot distinguish any colours at all. This is colloquially known as colour blindness. Colour blindness affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world.

In Malaysia, this means that there are approximately 2.2 million colour blind people (about 6.8% of the entire population), most of whom are male. There are different causes of colour blindness. For the vast majority of people with deficient colour vision, the condition is genetic and has been inherited from their mother, although some people become colour blind as a result of other diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis or they acquire the condition over time due to the ageing process, medication etc.

The most common form of colour blindness is known as red/green colour blindness and most colour blind people suffer from this. This does not mean sufferers mix up red and green, it means they mix up all colours which have some red or green as part of the whole colour. For example, a red/ green colour blind person will confuse a blue and a purple because they can’t ‘see’ the red element of the colour purple.