‘Inadequate Melanin In Iris Responsible For Blue Eyes –Ophthalmologist

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Lack of melanin in the iris is the cause of blue eyes, Dr. Abiola Oyeleye, a Consultant Ophthalmologist at The Eye Doctors, Lagos has said.

The ophthalmologist said blue eye is a condition whereby the iris (coloured part of the eye) appears to be blue.

Oyeleye, who spoke in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, said the colour of the iris is determined by the amount of melanin within the iris.

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Melanin is a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin, and iris of the eye in people and animals. It is responsible for tanning of skin exposed to sunlight.

According to Oyeleye, “If there is little or no melanin in the iris, the person will have a blue iris. If there is a lot of melanin, the person will have a brown iris, in-between brown and blue. You have hazel or green-coloured eyes based on the amount of melanin within the iris.”

While noting that there is no treatment for the eye condition, Oyeleleye said that a black person with blue eyes is rare. The condition, he said, is common among the whites.

According to Oyeleye, most people in the world (80 per cent) have brown iris.

“Some Caucasians (White people) have brown eyes, while some have blue eyes. At the age of three years, the iris colour of the individual is determined.

“Some White children are born with blue eyes, but they change to brown at the age of two to three years.

“A Black person with blue eyes is rare. Please note, some people could wear coloured contact lenses, which give the appearance of various coloured eyes, including blue.”

Explaining further, Oyeleye, who is also the Vice-President, Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria, said blue eyes could be hereditary or caused by genetic mutation and medical syndromes.

“Both parents could have blue eyes so they pass on their genes to the children. Both parents could have recessive blue iris genes and the baby develops blue eyes.

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“It could be caused by a genetic mutation. Change in one of the genes during development. The mutation switches off the gene that colours the iris brown.

“It can also be caused by medical syndromes and conditions. There is a medical condition called Waardenburg syndrome, which is named after a Dutch ophthalmologist.

“The affected individual has blue eyes, hearing problems and white forelock (hair in front of the head).

“Some individuals have heterochromia which, simply speaking, is different coloured irises, with one brown, and one blue. Others may lose the colour of the iris in some disease conditions.”

The eye specialist added that one cannot prevent blue eyes, as they are genetically determined and there is also no treatment for the eye condition.

“Unfortunately, in our environment, there is sometimes a stigma associated with blue eyes in which the people affected could be thought of as being evil or have evil powers,” Oyeleye said