If you’re color blind, you may have found yourself wondering why exactly this happens. After all, up to 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women are affected by color blindness, meaning they’re unable to see one or all of the following colors: green, blue, and red.

But what is the cause of color blindness – and why does it occur so frequently in men as opposed to women?

To understand the cause of color blindness, it’s important to learn how our eyes see color in the first place. There are cells in the back of the eye that are specifically designed to process light waves, which result in the appearance of color. When light passes through the eyes, these cells – known as cone cells – send messages to the brain, which helps us process and interpret the color we see all around us.

Each cluster of cone cells is responsible for processing a specific color. When someone is color blind, this means that they were born without the specific cone cells that process blue, green, and/or red.

So why does this happen more frequently in men than women? Blame it on genetics: the mutation that causes color blindness is found on the X chromosome. Since men only have one X chromosome, they are more likely to inherit color blindness. Women, on the other hand, have two X chromosomes, meaning there’s a much greater likelihood that any mutations on one X chromosome will be minimized with healthy photoreceptors on the other X chromosome.

Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for color blindness. However, there are plenty of special glasses that people can wear to see these specific colors.

Want to learn more about how color blindness occurs, or find a pair of glasses that can help you see more color? Schedule an eye exam with ophthalmologist Dr. Jacqueline Griffiths at NewView Eye Center in Reston, VA today.

NewView Eye Center serves the greater Washington, DC metro area.