Why children’s eyes change colour over time

Eye colour is one of the most recognisable features that makes us unique. For many people, eye colour remains the same throughout life, but for others it can change over time. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in children, whose initial eye colour can gradually change, causing their parents to wonder and question. Let’s look at the science behind this phenomenon.

Why children's eyes change colour over time
"Green-eyed baby" / Photo by Big Grey Mare / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The influence of pigments

Eye colour is determined by the amount and type of pigment in the iris. The main pigments that affect eye colour are called melanin and haemoglobin. Melanin makes the eyes brown or black, while haemoglobin makes the eyes blue or green.

Newborn babies’ eyes can have different shades, but most often they appear blue or grey. This is because the iris is not fully developed in babies and contains a small amount of melanin. Light entering the eye is therefore scattered and reflected, giving the impression of a blue or grey colour.

What changes with age

Over time, some children experience changes in the amount and distribution of pigment in the iris. This is due to the activity of certain genes that affect the synthesis of melanin and haemoglobin. Gradually, as these genes begin to work, children may experience changes in eye colour.

The most common change in eye colour is from blue or grey to brown. This is because the body starts to produce more melanin as the child grows. The melanin gradually accumulates in the iris, making it darker and giving the eyes a brown colour. In some cases, the eye colour may change to green or grey-green, also due to changes in the amount and type of pigment.

It is important to note that eye colour does not always change during childhood. Some people’s eye colour remains stable throughout their lives. The likelihood of eye colour change in children depends on genetic factors, so it is impossible to predict exactly what a child’s eye colour will be in adulthood.

Eye colour change in children is a complex and exciting process involving genetic and physiological factors. Although scientists have been able to explain the basic causes of this phenomenon, there are still many unknowns. A deeper study of eye colour change will help us to better understand genetics and human development.

Prepared by Mary Clair

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