Children’s eye checks are crucial for detecting colour blindness

Rene Moor, optometrist at Observatory the Opticians. Picture courtesy of Observatory.

Rene Moor, optometrist at Observatory the Opticians. Picture courtesy of Observatory. - Credit: Archant

Colour blindness or more correctly colour deficiency can be difficult to detect, particularly in children as they may be unaware that they have any problems with their colour vision.

A child with the condition may seemingly be able to accurately identify colours which they can’t properly see (e.g red) because they have been taught the colour of objects from an early age and will know for example that grass is green and strawberries are red even if they have no concept of their true colours.

Eye tests in school are no longer provided routinely, so the onus is on the parents to have their children’s eyes checked. This is the underlying reason why colour blindness isn’t being diagnosed at a young age.

It can, however, be detected easily during a sight test by your local optometrist. The Ishihara Plate Test is the most widely used to test for red-green colour vision deficiency and contains 38 plates of circles created by irregular coloured dots in two or more colours. Some plates contain numbers which people with normal colour vision can see whilst others contain numbers that only people with colour blindness can see. Special plates are also included for young children who are not old enough to identify numbers.

If a child is found to have a colour deficiency, it can be helpful to discuss this with teachers so that assistance in school can be made if necessary. There are also a few occupations that colour deficiency can be a barrier to such as fireman or pilot. Colour deficiency is not a barrier to normal car driving in the UK.

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Free sight tests are available on the NHS for the under 16s, as well as those aged up to 18 and in full-time education. But despite the crucial health check being free, only one in five children actually have the eye test they’re entitled to, and eye test rates among youngsters have been steadily declining over the past 10 years.

So this summer make sure your child has a full eye examination with your local optometrist including a colour vision test.

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