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Where is lack of color made?

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Lack of color, also known as achromatopsia, is a rare visual condition characterized by the inability to see color and extremely poor eyesight in bright light. While the exact prevalence is unknown, it is estimated that achromatopsia affects around 1 in 30,000 people worldwide. This article will examine where lack of color originates, the underlying causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and potential treatments for this rare condition.

Where Does Lack of Color Come From?

Lack of color is primarily caused by an absence or malfunction of the cone cells in the retina at the back of the eye. The retina contains two main types of photoreceptors that are responsible for vision – rods cells and cone cells.

Rod cells provide black-and-white vision in low light conditions. They do not detect color. Cone cells, on the other hand, allow us to see color and details. There are three types of cone cells – short (blue), medium (green), and long (red). Each type of cone detects a different wavelength of light that our brain interprets as a specific color.

When all three types of cones are working properly, the cones send color information in the form of electrical signals to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then combines the signals from the three cone types to produce normal color vision.

In achromatopsia, one or more of the cone cell types are absent, malfunctioning or detect light at the wrong wavelengths. This results in greatly diminished color perception and vision that consists only of shades of gray, black and white. Achromatopsia is sometimes described as “seeing in black and white” or “color blindness.” However, true complete color blindness or monochromacy where no color is seen is very rare.

Underlying Causes

Achromatopsia is most commonly caused by genetic mutations that disrupt cone cell function. It can be inherited as an autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant or X-linked genetic trait. Some of the genes associated with achromatopsia include:

– CNGA3 – encodes a cyclic nucleotide channel in cone cells
– CNGB3 – encodes a cyclic nucleotide channel in cone cells
– GNAT2 – encodes a cone cell protein needed for normal phototransduction
– PDE6C – encodes a cone photoreceptor phosphodiesterase enzyme
– PDE6H – encodes a cone photoreceptor phosphodiesterase enzyme
– ATF6 – encodes a transcription factor involved in cone cell development

If a person inherits two defective copies of any one of these genes, it usually results in complete loss of cone photoreceptor function and total achromatopsia from birth. Someone who inherits just one defective gene copy may have partial achromatopsia with some retained color vision.

In rare cases, achromatopsia is not inherited but acquired later in life due to:

– Damage or degeneration of the retina and optic nerve from disease
– Head trauma, stroke or brain tumor affecting the visual cortex
– Side effects of certain drugs, such as digoxin or chloroquine


The main symptoms of achromatopsia include:

– Inability to perceive any color, or color vision limited only to shades of black, white and gray
– Extreme light sensitivity (photophobia) and discomfort in normal daylight
– Significantly reduced visual acuity – usually 20/200 or worse
– Eyes that dart or involuntary fluttering of the eyelids (nystagmus)
– Poor night vision or night blindness (nyctalopia)
– Needing to squint or cover eyes in bright light

A person with complete achromatopsia will fail color vision screening tests such as the Ishihara plates. They are unable to identify any of the dot patterns that make up digits or shapes visible only to those with normal color vision.

People with partial achromatopsia may score in the mildly abnormal range on color vision tests. They can perceive some color, but their color discrimination is still significantly impaired.

Some people with achromatopsia also experience visual phenomena such as seeing “ghost images,” light pulsations or distortions. Headaches are common due to eye strain.

Age of Onset Symptoms
Congenital Symptoms present from birth including:
  • No color perception / severely deficient color vision
  • Photophobia
  • Reduced visual acuity
  • Nystagmus
Early Childhood
  • Photophobia emerges or worsens
  • Nystagmus may develop
  • Night blindness
  • Difficulty seeing chalkboards at school
  • Worsening visual symptoms
  • Difficulty with tasks requiring detailed, color-dependent visual function
  • Problems seeing certain screens, displays, devices
  • Increasing light sensitivity and eye strain


Achromatopsia is diagnosed through a clinical eye exam and vision testing. Key aspects of the evaluation include:

– Patient history – asking about symptoms, visual difficulties, family history of eye disorders

– Visual acuity test – measures sharpness of vision using a Snellen chart

– Refraction – determines if glasses can improve visual acuity by correcting refractive errors like nearsightedness

– Eye movement evaluation – checks for nystagmus

– Pupillary light reflexes – constriction of the pupils in response to light

– Color vision testing – identifies inability to detect colors using Ishihara plates, Farnsworth D-15 test, etc.

– Retinal exam – checks for changes in the retina, optic nerve and blood vessels

– Electroretinogram (ERG) – measures electrical signals from retinal cells in response to light flashes

– Genetic testing – analyzes genes associated with achromatopsia

Achromatopsia needs to be differentiated from conditions like congenital blindness, albinism, and other causes of photophobia. However, the combination of major light sensitivity, low visual acuity, nystagmus, and little/no color perception is highly suggestive of achromatopsia.

Treatments and Interventions

Currently there is no cure for achromatopsia. However, treatments aim to help manage symptoms and improve functional vision:

– Tinted or photochromic lenses – reduce light sensitivity and glare

– Sunglasses or hats with visors – decrease photophobia outdoors

– Low vision aids – magnifiers, large print, audio books

– Indoor lighting changes – reduce brightness, avoid fluorescent lights

– Vision rehabilitation – training in using peripheral vision

– Mobility training – navigate safely with limited vision

– Genetic counseling – for family planning and testing

Emerging Treatments

Some emerging therapies that hold promise for improving vision in achromatopsia include:

– **Gene therapy** – Replacing or repairing defective genes through viral vector delivery of normal genes into retinal cells. Clinical trials are underway.

– **Optogenetics** – Using light sensitive proteins delivered into retinal cells to restore light response. Animal research is promising.

– **Retinal implants** – Implanting a microchip in the retina to stimulate visual pathways. A few devices are in development.

– **Pharmacologic treatments** – Experimental drugs to modulate cone cell function. Still in very early research.

While still highly experimental, these new approaches suggest real potential for treating the underlying causes of achromatopsia in the future rather than just the symptoms.


In summary, achromatopsia is a rare, genetic condition characterized by the inability to perceive color, extreme light sensitivity, and significantly decreased visual acuity. It is caused by mutations disrupting cone cell function in the retina. While often present from birth, symptoms tend to manifest and progress during childhood and early adult life. There is currently no cure, but tinted lenses, lighting aids, rehabilitation, and emerging therapies can help those affected manage their visual deficits. Understanding the biological basis of achromatopsia continues to inform development of targeted treatments to restore color vision and improve eyesight for those living with this challenging disorder.