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Why is it important to have colour blindness properly diagnosed?

Colour vision deficiency can have an impact upon your child’s performance in school or on the sports field and affect their confidence from an early age. In adults, having CVD can affect which careers you can pursue and be a frustrating condition to live with at times. The earlier someone is diagnosed the better it will be for their well-being because they can be supported in school and at home and begin to learn to when they might need to ask for help.

Dr John Barry, Honorary Lecturer in Psychology at University College London (UCL) has recently created the first scale that measures the quality of life impact of being colour blind. In collaboration with the Academic Unit of Ophthalmology at the University of Birmingham, he conducted a study of 419 people, finding that colour blindness can significantly impact quality of life for health, emotions, and especially careers. The study found colour blindness causes problems in many areas of life. Colour blindness can be difficult to detect, particularly in children with inherited colour vision deficiency as they may be unaware that they have any problems with their colour vision.

Being diagnosed can help people to recognise where they might need to ask for assistance to avoid making mistakes or being misunderstood – this is particularly important for children in school and in certain vocations.

Where to go for a diagnosis

If you have any eye test with an optometrist (a registered health professional who examines eyes, tests sight and dispenses glasses and contact lenses) they should test colour vision as a matter of routine, but not all chains of optometrists in the UK undertake this test routinely. With some you may have to request a colour vision test specifically and sometimes even be asked to pay for it as an extra. In England and Wales a colour vision test for children (and adults) does not form part of the NHS eye test and you will need to specifically request a colour vision test. If you are asked to pay for a simple Ishihara test we recommend that you go elsewhere. However, in Scotland you can expect optometrists to screen for children for colour blindness on their first visit as regulations are different in Scotland.

You can also see your GP if you or your child(ren) have any problems seeing colours. Your GP will ask about symptoms, carry out an examination and may also ask about your medical/family history since not all colour vision issues are inherited and can be caused by other medical conditions.

There are many tests available to measure colour vision defects but the most common is the Ishihara Plate test. This can test for red/green colour blindness but not blue colour blindness. This is the test most likely to be used for routine colour vision screening in schools or medicals. Note that children are no longer screened for colour blindness in primary school so if your child has had an eye test when they started school this does not meant they are not colour blind! As 1 in 12 boys are affected it is very important to ensure that all children, but boys in particular, have a proper eye test which includes a colour vision test. If you know colour blindness runs in your family and you have a son it is quite likely that they could be colour blind. Girls with a colour blind father should also be checked.

The Ishihara test is the most widely used for testing for red-green colour vision deficiency and contains 38 plates of circles created by irregular coloured dots in two or more colours. The plates will be put in front of you and you will be asked what number you can see on the plate. Some plates contain information which people with normal colour vision can see whilst others contain information that only people with colour blindness can see. If you make a certain number of errors you will be diagnosed with colour blindness. Special Plate tests have been devised to diagnose young children who are not old enough to identify numbers. An example of Ishihara plates is shown in these extracts from Colorblind World.

Ishihara Plates

To see the entire document go to

More sophisticated tests are also widely used to ascertain whether someone with a colour vision deficiency would be suitable for certain occupations. A Lantern test, for example, is used to identify people not suitable to work as train drivers or in marine and aviation jobs or other occupations where the work requires the ability to accurately reading the colours of lights for safety reasons.

At you can find an initial ‘test’ for colour blindness on the screen. Please note that these online ‘tests’ are for initial screening purposes only, should not be relied upon and will not give an accurate formal diagnosis. If you suspect that you or your child might be colour blind please seek professional help from an optometrist.

If you are still unhappy or would like a more detailed diagnosis you can arrange to have a full colour vision test. Click here to follow the link to the Colour Vision Clinic at City University where professionals will be happy to carry out a full colour vision assessment for you. The assessment will cover 8 separate tests and you will be given a report summarising your condition which can be used to advise schools and employers. There is a charge for this service. There are other locations in the UK which can also carry out detailed colour vision testing. Please contact us for more information.