Tritanopic after Head Injury

Divya from India asks me the following question. She tells a short story about acquiring color blindness after a heavy head injury. Here are the lines Divya sent to me:

my boyfriend suffered an injury while playin cricket recently and the optician diagnosed it as tritanopia..heres what happened..he was aplying and was kinda nauseous and he puked in his helmet and fainted and fell backwards and got a hard blow on his head from the bat and a whack from the ground at the back of his head again and got knocked out/fainted..he was out for almost an hour and when he regained consciousness he was colourblind…the optician said its tritanopia..and he can only see luminous stuff as in highlighters and violet stuff and other stuff appears gray…what i want to know is…is this permanent or is it temporary…and if it is curable how can it be done…

I will try my best to answer the above questions and give some more insights about acquired color blindness. As I am not a professional in the field of color vision professional help should be frequented for detailed clarifications.

Unfortunately color blindness can be caused by severe head injuries. By far the most occurences of color blindness are congenital. In very rare cases people with perfect color vision abilities can be affected by an impaired vision or color vision deficiency after a brain trauma, a stroke or some other kind of severe head injury.

Such vision deficiencies are caused by a damage of the optical cortex. Several cases are described in scientific papers but there are no results concerning the cause of the loss of color vision. Some speculate, that the patient’s abnormality arises from partial destruction of the chromatic mechanism. The case described by Divya above about an acquired tritanopia may also occur, if the rod-cone mechanism is damaged.

Unfortunately as much acquired color blindness as congenital color blindness are not curable or at least there are no methods known to this day. As an acquired color blindness is without much doubt caused by some damage in the optical cortex most likely there will be no cure in sight in the near future.

Also because most often a severe damage causes the color blindness, there is evidence to suggest that this trait will be permanent and not only a temporarly impairment.

Further reading:
Traumatically acquired color vision defect

Related article:
Tritanopia – Blue-Yellow Color Blindness

6 responses on “Tritanopic after Head Injury

  1. Peter

    Sounds like a curious case. I don’t know if “tritanopia” is exactly the description I would give it, as any acquired color blindness is unlikely to be all that similar to the congenital form.

    In addition to occiptal lobe damage (at the back of the brain), acquired color blindness can also caused by optic nerve damage. Although I’m not a medical person (but a vision scientist) I would say recovery is not out of the question. Although your case sounds more like brain damage, optic nerve damage color blindness is known to recover in some cases. Anyway, the brain is remoldable, so possibly therapy could help to reduce the deficit, just as some stroke victims are eventually able to walk or speak again (usually with therapy) after initially losing those abilities.

    I would suggest reading as much as possible on PubMed, searching for “trauma acquired color blindness”. Also, if your doctor is not able to provide further advice, I would suggest contacting the nearest large research university and see if any vision scientists are interested in running some tests. This case could be interesting to the scientific community and if you can find an interested expert it would be an excellent way for you to learn more about exactly what happened.

  2. Daniel Fluck Post author

    Peter, thanks a lot for your insights into acquired color blindness. I couldn’t find anything about possible therapies which could reduce the deficit but it is definitely worth looking for it.

    Also thanks for the hint, that this could be an interesting case for the scientifc community. I would say a win-win situation whereas both parties could learn more about it.

    I updated the article to be sure everybody reads also your comment.

  3. Chris

    A similar thing happened to me. I was driving myself and my friend Zac home from a hockey game at around 11 on a saturday night. We were struck head on by a drunk driver. I don’t remember anything after the impact, all I remember was seeing the blinding headlights swerve towards us. I was in a coma for a week and when I woke up I remember noticing everything was different. I kept it to myself for a few hours but then I asked when things were different colors. I took this test and the doctor determined I had tritanopia. He says I will confuse green as being blue and yellow as violet. That happened when I was 17 and I am 19 today and I still have it.

  4. Kathleen

    My daughter was hit full on with an aluminum baseball bat on the right side of her head at a birthday party when she was 8 years old. Unfortunately I was not there when this happened and only know what I was told and what I discovered 5 years after the incident. She was probably knocked out (conflicting stories) and then received stitches for the cut on her temple. No cranial x-rays, cats or mris were done. At the age of 13 we realized that she was seeing her colors all mixed up.
    Red – no longer saw at all.
    Green – seen as blue
    Blue – seen as green
    Yellow – seen as pink
    Pink – seen as yellow
    Orange – seen as orange
    Purple – seen as purple
    Turquoise – seen as turquoise
    Black, brown, grey, white – all seen as normal.

    We have done lots of tests had all sorts of exams since discovering this and no one can do anything about it.

    My personal theory is that, when this occured at age 8 only one eye was damaged. Progressively the brain which couldn’t deal with the correct color vision in one eye and messed up color vision in the other eye eventually and gradually adapted to see things as the damaged eye saw things. As this happened gradually (and only being 8) this basically went unnoticed until we came back from a month long trip and my daughter saw her cotton-candy pink bedroom and declared it was a gross color (we later realized that it looked like mustard yellow to her). We FINALLY realized that something was seriously wrong when we were hanging a fire-engine red shower curtain and she commented on it being a dark green. After this we really started to question her on what colors were what and realized that her colors were completely messed up. Nothing much to do about the color confusion except deal with it. However, NOW what is of major concern is that she is having complete vision loss. We have been told that these are “optical” migrains. She will be having testing done in August (eeg and seeing a migrain clinic here in Paris France). If anyone out there is doing research and would be interested in doing some indepth examinations with my daughter we’d be very interested in doing more testing. Such a sad thought that she’s never ever going to see the color red ever again.
    Please feel free to contact us at: (we live in Paris)

  5. Daniel Flück Post author

    Kathleen, thanks for sharing your daughters story with us. Personally I think you can’t really do anything about it. Just hope for the best. In some cases correct color vision just came back.

    If you really want to do some insight testing have a look at Prof. John L. Barbors website. They are definitely a good place to visit or contact from GB.

    All the best to you and your daughter. – Daniel.

  6. DSE

    I am 51 now and am just discovering that there is something known about blue-green color”blindness.” I first discovered when I was in science class in 7th grade that I can’t distinguish dark blues/greens/blacks/grays/purples, like in sweaters or t-shirts. I label them when I get them so I can know what I’m wearing later. I also have a hard time distinguishing dark bodies of water at a distance from dark plowed fields (here in the Midwest).

    I now also have found that I can’t see these light (unsaturated) colors onscreen. I’ve had to adjust my software color palettes so that I can distinguish things that are color-coded. I have never asked an eye Dr about this, even though I go regularly because it is only recently that I have realized how much it affects me.

    I did have a very severe head injury, when I was about 5, in a fall down the basement steps, backwards, hitting the concrete floor with the back of my head and being unconscious for an unknown length of time. It has never gotten better, but I’m interested in knowing more about this. Any suggestions?