Color Blindness in Children

6 min read

Written by Sindhuja Prabhu

Sindhuja Prabhu

Color blindness in children

A newborn baby sees the world in black and white. Babies cannot see in color until a few weeks after birth. They slowly start perceiving the bright colors first and the vision expands. Many parents can mistake their child for being color blind when they do not react to bright colors like older children. Is color blindness in children possible?

It can be quite confusing to decide if your child just does not understand colors or is unable to see them. If you get this suspicion, you may have numerous questions. Why did this happen, how did this happen? Since when is my child color blind? Read on to learn these answers and more about color blindness in children.

In This Article

What is Color Blindness?

Color blindness, also known as color vision deficiency, is when a child has difficulty perceiving colors like everyone else. Eyes have color-detecting nerves at the back, known as cones. When these cones don’t work properly, the child will find it difficult to tell colors apart.

The eyes have 3 cones – L cones, M cones, and S cones. All three cones must work together to help us see all the different colors. Each of these cones helps perceive long, medium, and short wavelengths. Even if one of these cones does not work properly, it can become difficult to understand and perceive colors.

Types of Color Blindness in Children

There are 3 types of color blindness in children

When each of these 3 cones function differently, it can affect the way the eyes perceive colors. Color blindness in children can be broadly classified into three types-

Red-Green Color Vision Deficiency

It is the most common type of color blindness that affects the way a child perceives shades of red and green. This happens when there is an issue with the L or M cones. This type of color blindness is more common among men than women. Red-green color blindness is also seen more in certain ethnicities than in others.

When L cones are missing, the child cannot perceive red light. When M cones are missing, the child cannot perceive green light.

In some cases, the L cones can be less sensitive to the color red. As a result, red may seem gray or black. Every color that contains red in it will also look dull. Similarly, if the M cones are less sensitive to green light, it can make everything look more blue, yellow, or other muted shades.

Blue – Yellow Color Vision Deficiency

This type is less common and affects the way the child perceives combinations of blue and yellow colors. This happens when there is a problem with the S cones.

When the S cones are absent, the child cannot perceive blue light. When the S cones are less sensitive, it affects the way the eyes perceive blue color. The child may see blue as green and may see very little or no yellow at all.

Since these two colors are part of many combinations, it affects the way the child perceives many colors. The child can find it difficult to differentiate between blue and green, red and purple, or yellow and pink. All colors can look very dull too.

Complete Color Vision Deficiency

This is the most rare type of color blindness. In this type, the child cannot see any color at all. All they can see is gray, white, and black. They will perceive different colors as different shades of gray.
When both M cones and L cones are completely missing, the child has only S cones. So, the eyes see everything in just shades of gray. This is known as monochromacy.

When all three cones are completely missing or don’t work as they should, the eyes will again perceive everything in shades of gray. This is known as achromatopsia.

Causes of Color Blindness in Children

Color blindness can be acquired or inherited

Color blindness can be present from birth (inherited) or develop later on in life (acquired). Many factors can lead to either of these types of color blindness in children-

Inherited Color Blindness 

The most common inherited color blindness is the red-green color vision deficiency. A mutation of the genes can lead to this condition. The genes responsible for this type of color blindness are present in the X chromosome. Since males have only one X chromosome while females have two, this type of color blindness is more common among males.

Acquired Color Blindness 

The most common acquired color blindness is the yellow-blue color vision deficiency. This can happen at any time in a person’s life due to various exposures. It can be exposure to chemicals, welding lights, medications, or some medical condition. This can affect both males and females alike.

What Are Some Signs And Symptoms of Color Blindness?

Difficulty in identifying colors correctly can be a symptom of color blindness

Detecting color blindness in very young children or toddlers can be tricky. But there are certain signs and symptoms which can give you a clue as to whether your child is facing problems identifying colors or not. But it’s important to remember that these signs are not a sure shot way of diagnosing color blindness, and you may have to consult a doctor to get proper diagnosis.

Some of the signs are-

  • Using wrong colors while drawing, coloring, etc., like, using red for leaves instead of green, and so on
  • Has problem identifying red or green colors
  • Is sensitive to lights, especially bright lights
  • Is able to see well at night time or in low light conditions
  • Has difficulty working with colored sheets and material
  • May get a headache if they see red color against green background and vice versa

Diagnosis of Color Blindness in Children

Ishihara test

Diagnosing color blindness in young children can be very tricky. Some children may take time to recognize colors, thus misidentifying them. Parents can mistake this to be color blindness and worry unnecessarily.

The best way to diagnose is to check with an eye specialist. The specialist will conduct a Ishihara test to confirm a diagnosis. In this test, they use different shapes and color plates to understand which cones are working or not working properly in the child’s eyes.

Only children above the age of 4 are eligible for this test. Younger children may not understand the questions or know how to differentiate between the colors.

Treatment Options For Color Blindness in Children

Color blindness glasses can help to an extent

If it is inherited color blindness, there is currently no cure for it. If color blindness is acquired, the doctor will first treat the underlying condition. Changing or adjusting medications can help the child see the colors better.

If the child is having sensitivity toward a particular color due to the cones not working properly, the doctor might suggest color-blindness glasses. These glasses help enhance the colors and increase the contrast. As a result, the child can see the colors better and brighter.

However, if the child’s cones are missing, these glasses cannot help them see a new color that their eyes cannot perceive.

When to See a Doctor?

Consult a doctor if you feel child is not able to identify colors

When it comes to eyes, it is important to consult a doctor regularly. You can visit an ophthalmologist once a year. However, not all parents do this and it is quite common to just check with the pediatrician.
When your child starts interacting with colors, you may notice differences. If your child starts coloring and you notice they are unable to follow instructions while choosing colors or do “copy-color” activities, you should start paying closer attention.

Children generally find bright hues more attractive. So, if your child does not go for the bright colors or prefers one color toy over the other, it can be a warning. You need to observe a little more before you conclude your child has color blindness. Consulting an ophthalmologist is the best option when you have a doubt.

If you suspect your child is unable to perceive colors properly, it is important to get their eyes checked without any delay. If your child suffers from color blindness, it is important to be compassionate and patient with them. You need to guide and help them make important decisions as they grow up.


1. Can I Prevent Color Blindness in my Child?

You cannot prevent inherited color blindness. You can prevent acquired color blindness by not exposing them to harmful chemicals or bright lights at a very young age.

2. Can Color Blindness Affect a Child’s Future?

Many careers require color perception. So, if your child is color-blind, you should help them choose and pursue careers that are not dependent on colors. Careers in fashion, art, or cooking require color perception. While careers involving teaching subjects, software, or soft skills do not depend much on colors.

Sindhuja Prabhu,M.Sc (Psychology),PGDBM

Sindhuja, a mother of two, is an obsessive mom with a keen interest in psychology, especially child psychology. Her quest for knowledge and way with words led her to become a passionate content writer. She transformed her love for writing into a full-fledged career which incidentally also turned up being the perfect stress buster for the last 5 years.Read more.

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