All About Heterochromia

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Do you have any friends who have two different colored eyes, like one hazel eye and one green eye? Those who have irises of different colors have a condition called heterochromia. If you’ve ever met someone with only part of one iris as a different color, they have partial heterochromia. And if you’ve ever seen someone who seems to have one color in a ring closer to their pupil, and another color in an outer ring near the whites of their eyes, this condition is called central heterochromia.
Fun fact: Heterochromia occurs in cats too! White and tuxedo cats are most prone because they carry genes that prevent melanin from reaching the iris during development.

cat blue and green eyes

Is heterochromia harmful?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the vast majority of people who are born with heterochromia don’t experience any symptoms other than the different colors in their irises. However, the condition is sometimes actually a symptom of a bigger issue. Some of the more concerning causes of heterochromia include Horner’s syndrome, Sturge-Weber syndrome, and Waardenburg syndrome.

If heterochromia appears later in life, it is generally a result of a more serious condition, such as an eye injury or a disease like glaucoma.

Regardless of when the heterochromia appears, a doctor should be consulted immediately to examine whether an underlying cause needs to be treated.

How can I prevent developing heterochromia?

Because changing eye color can be caused by such a wide variety of conditions, it’s important to use basic eye protection practices. Here are some easy tips to keep healthy eyes:

  •    Use sunglasses which offer 100% UV protection! Make sure your sunglasses not only block UV-A rays, but also UV-B rays. Eye protection is especially important for those with lighter colored eyes, like hazel eyes, green eyes, and blue eyes, because they are more sensitive to bright light.
  •    Avoid smoking tobacco. Smoking has been clearly linked to age-related macular degeneration.
  •    Keep a healthy diet. Nutritionists recommend you include lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids in your regular food consumption.

Find even more eye care tips on the AAO website.

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