September 9, 2020
Women can technically be color blind, but it is rare. Color blindness in women occurs in a rate of only about 1 in 200 — compared to 1 in 12 men. That statistic means that 95% of people who have color deficiency are men.
This disparity is due to the chromosomal differences between men and women.
Color deficiency, or color blindness, refers to a condition in which a person does not see colors in a typical way. Most of the time, the issue for those afflicted with color blindness is trying to differentiate between different shades of red, green, or blue.
Most people suffer from color deficiency, rather than total color blindness.
Red-green color blindness is linked to genetic mutations that are passed down by the X chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes whereas men only have one.
If a woman were to inherit one mutated X chromosome and one normal X chromosome then she would not develop color blindness. That’s because the mutated X chromosome is recessive and is therefore ‘canceled out’ by the normal X chromosome.
According to the National Eye Institute, a woman would need to have two mutated X chromosomes to be color blind – hence the rarity.
However, if a man inherits a mutated X chromosome, he would develop color deficiency because there is no other normal X chromosome to ‘cancel out’ the mutated one.
Since women pass the X chromosome to their sons, it’s safe to say that men with color deficiency inherited it from their mothers. Women can carry the mutated X chromosome without being color blind themselves, so they can pass the mutation down the family line without even realizing it.
If a woman with a mutated X chromosome has children, her sons have a 50% chance of being color blind and her daughters have a 50% chance of carrying the gene.
Since men have only one X chromosome, a man cannot carry the mutated X chromosome without being affected by it.
If a man with color blindness has daughters, there is a 100% chance they would carry the gene, though it would be recessive – unless they receive a mutated X chromosome from their mother as well. However, since he passes the Y chromosome to his sons, they would have a 0% chance of being color blind or carrying the mutated gene — unless they get it from their mother.
It’s important to note that genetics aren’t the only cause of color deficiency. Some other risk factors for color blindness include:
If you suddenly lose your color vision in one or both eyes, you should visit your eye doctor as soon as possible.
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