If a Women is a Carrier of Color Blindness does she also Suffer from it?

Many people think that only men can be colorblind. As we can learn from genetics, this is not true. There are a lot more men colorblind, but also women can suffer from a color vision deficiency.

Here’s a question for experts: according to a vision test in a magazine she did recently, my mother has a slight red-green weakness, which, however, is hardly noticeable in daily life. Is this also colour blindness, although that is really rare in women, and it’s nothing compared to her father’s colour blindness, which was pretty severe? Or can it be due to her being a carrier?

On a first glance it looks like we can give a quick and short answer on this. But thinking about it, makes it a bit more complicated.

First of all, yes women can be colorblind and even if it is a very weak form of it you call it color vision deficiency (a wording which reflects much better the fact that colorblind people can also see colors). And it doesn’t matter if it is rare or not.

Sex chromosome X encodes color vision.
XY = man
XX = woman.

Now let’s have a closer look at this case. We have a colorblind man which means he has a defective X chromosome which pairs with a Y. The Y chromosomes have no coding of color vision and therefore have no important role here. His daughter will inherit this defective X and another X from her mother. We have now to possibilities:

  1. The mothers X is also defective concerning color vision.
  2. The daughter inherited an X encoding perfect color vision.

In the first case the daughter definitely shows some form of color blindness which she inherited from both of her parents. It is said that the weaker form either from her father or from her mother would control her color vision.

X-linked recessive carrier mother

According to genetics the daughter shouldn’t be colorblind in the second case. But it is known from different cases that this isn’t always so easy to tell. Up to now it is not fully understood how those two X chromosomes affect the color vision system. It could be very well that both of them play their part in the setup of the color receptors. In this case the strong color blindness encoded on her fathers X chromosome could also affect the color vision to a certain degree.

Putting this together means, that the daughter can show characteristics of color vision deficiency in the first and the second case. Only a detailed genetic analysis could tell us more details about it.