EnChroma: A Game Changer in the World of Color Blindness

EnChroma: A Game Changer in the World of Color Blindness

Imagine not knowing what the colors red, green or blue look like. For someone with color vision deficiency – more commonly known as color blindness – these colors, and mixes of these colors, are a mystery. Those who are color blind have an altered perception of colors and aren’t aware of differences among colors that are obvious to those who aren’t color blind. The symptoms of color blindness vary in severity. While some may not be able to tell the difference between some reds, greens and blues, others may only be able to see a few shades of color. In rare cases, some see only black, white and gray. The images below show the difference in how someone with normal vision sees color versus how someone with color blindness sees color.

Typical vision

Typical Vision

Color vision deficiency

Color vision deficiency

Most people with color blindness have inherited it. More men – up to 8 percent – than women - .5 percent – tend to be color blind because of the way color vision is passed on from parent to child in DNA molecules. However, not all color blindness is inherited. Certain conditions, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, chronic alcoholism, leukemia and sickle cell anemia, may increase the risk for acquired color deficiency.

Most people with color blindness are able to live perfectly normal lives, besides the frustration and confusion associated with trying to decipher one color from another when completing everyday tasks, such as matching clothing, selecting paint colors for a home and completing art projects. However, new eyewear technology from EnChroma – a company that emerged from a National Institutes of Health SBIR grant to study the feasibility of enhancing color vision in humans – is changing the lives of those with color blindness.

In scientific terms, color blindness is a result of the cones in the eye – specific to being able to see red, green and blue – converging on one another and interfering with proper color vision. Dr. Don McPherson, chief science officer for EnChroma, discovered a method of using lenses to cut the light spectrum and change it so people with certain types of color blindness can experience the variation and brightness of the color spectrum like those with typical vision. As with many inventions and discoveries, these lenses were created by mistake in the process of developing glasses to help with laser surgery eye protection.

Using this technology, EnChroma has created glasses that help people with color blindness see colors they have never seen before. Their lenses look like ordinary tinted lenses, but are able to transform the experience of color vision for those with color blindness. Through the lenses, colors appear more vibrant, saturated and full, without compromising the accuracy or color balance.

Take a look at coverage on “TODAY” that shows how people with color blindness are “seeing the rainbow” here.