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Think all apples look the same? Read this to find out if you might be color-blind without even knowing it.
Pop quiz: What color are limes? How about strawberries? Oranges? Bananas?
If you answered green, red, orange, and yellow, congratulations—you’re at least as smart as a 4-year-old. But that doesn’t mean you’re not color-blind. From the time you were crawling, you may have learned to connect objects with the “right” colors, not realizing that others see a more vibrant fruit salad.
“What we see is very perceptual,” says Chalise Francisco, O.D., an optometrist with Nashville Regional Eye Care, located inside an America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, in Bartlett, Tenn. “Nearsighted children think they’re seeing fine—until we put the correct glasses on them. Then they see the difference.”
The problem: You can’t show a child who is color-blind the colors others see.
Older children and even adults can be unknowingly color-blind too, says Dr. Francisco. That’s because most people with color blindness actually can see color. They just have a hard time distinguishing between certain ones, like reds and greens.
In fact, “color-blind” is really a misnomer; the medical term is color vision deficiency. But that’s a mouthful.
Color vision deficient or color-blind, what’s important is being aware that you have the condition. It can help you recognize when you need to ask for help—say, when you’re hunting for the green recycling bin, a ripe banana, or the red wire (yikes!).
Here are seven sneaky signs it might be time to have your eye doctor check if you're color-blind.
Color-Blind Sign No. 1: You Can’t Tell an Undercooked Steak
Color-blind people can have a tough time spotting the difference between rare and well-done, says Dr. Francisco. The red blood blends right in with the brown meat. Your move: Keep a meat thermometer near the stove.
Color-Blind Sign No. 2: You Think You See Color Just Fine—But Others Don’t
Do people point out your mismatched clothes or correct you about colors? Don’t just shrug them off.
Often, people with red-green deficiency—the most common color mix-up among people who are color-blind—aren’t aware of their vision problem. A color blindness awareness site in Great Britain estimates that approximately 40 percent of color-blind students have no idea there’s anything wrong with their view of the world.
Also, while most color-blind people are born with the trait (see No. 4), it can also develop over time—a sign of cataracts, or a clouding of the eye’s lens. “Cataracts are usually very slow in progressing, so vision changes are gradual,” says Dr. Francisco. “You may not notice that blues aren’t quite as blue, and reds aren’t quite as red.”
Color-Blind Sign No. 3: Others Underestimate You
Color blindness can make some tasks a challenge, like interpreting graphs or color-coded instructions. In fact, proper vision is vital for learning: 80 percent of what we learn in our first 12 years comes through visual processing.
Thus, it is no surprise that children with vision problems are often mislabeled as learning deficient. Another reason to get your child’s eyes checked early on.
Color-Blind Sign No. 4: Your Mom’s Dad Is Color-Blind
Red-green color blindness is an X-linked recessive trait—usually passed from mothers to sons. If your maternal grandfather is color-blind, then your mom is almost guaranteed to be a carrier. And the chances she passed that gene on to you are pretty good—50 percent.
Unlike girls, boys need only one copy of the gene to be affected. And they can inherit that gene only from Mom.
Color-Blind Sign No. 5: You Get Migraines
In an Israeli study of more than 300,000 male adolescents, the color-blind boys were 32 percent more likely to suffer migraines than those with normal color vision. (Interestingly, impaired color vision can also be a symptom of migraines.) More research is needed to explore the connection, the study authors say.
Color-Blind Sign No. 6: You Hate Vegetables
For most color-blind folks, green looks gross, according to experts at the Colour Blind Awareness organization in the U.K. To them, bright green broccoli crowns just look brownish and spoiled. And research from the University of Oxford suggests that your enjoyment of food is affected by its color.
Color-Blind Sign No. 7: You’re a Khaki Connoisseur
A longstanding hypothesis that dates back to World War I says that color-deficient folks can detect contrasts between the browns and greens in army camouflage more easily.
A more recent U.K. study backs up the idea: When researchers asked people to judge the similarities between various pairs of desaturated (or less colorful) greens, the normal-vision group struggled with the eye test, while color-blind men passed with flying … you know.
It turns out color-blind people may be able to see a “color dimension” inaccessible to those with regular vision, the study’s authors say. In the case of work pants, you might see a sharper contrast between the “dusty khaki” and “British khaki” than your wife. That makes you a great shopping companion at J.Crew.