What Causes Heterochromia – And is it a Concern?
First of all, what is it? Heterochromia is when a person’s irises (the colored area around the pupil) are different colors. It is relatively uncommon among humans and is most often a harmless condition. A number of celebrities have heterochromia, among them Kate Bosworth, Jane Seymour, and Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer. Color differences between each eye, or within the iris, range from subtle to striking, and may be quite interesting or beautiful.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are two main classes of heterochromia: congenital, which means having different eye colors at birth or soon after, and acquired, which is when a person develops heterochromia later in life.
In most cases, congenital heterochromia does not cause any vision problems or affect a child’s general health.
Acquired heterochromia may be due to an underlying problem such as:
- Eye injury
- Bleeding in the eye
- Swelling, due to iritis or uveitis
- Eye surgery
- Fuchs’ heterochromic cyclitis
- Acquired Horner’s syndrome
- Glaucoma and some medications used to treat it
- Latisse, a repurposed glaucoma medication used cosmetically to thicken eyelashes
- Pigment dispersion syndrome
- Ocular melanosis
- Posner-Schlossman syndrome
- Iris ectropion syndrome
- Benign and malignant tumors of the iris
- Diabetes mellitus
- Central retinal vein occlusion
- Chediak-Higashi syndrome
If each eye has a different color, that is called “complete heterochromia.” But if different parts of one iris differ in color, that is known as “segmental heterochromia.” It’s also possible for the outer ring of the iris to be a different color from the rest, which is called “central heterochromia.”
If your infant has heterochromia, he or she should be examined by an ophthalmologist who will evaluate the condition and look for any underlying causes that might need attention. If you’re an adult and have acquired heterochromia, or if you’ve noticed any change in your eye color in one or both eyes, tell your Atlantic Eye physician. A full eye exam, and possibly blood or genetic tests, will help to identify the cause of your heterochromia and determine if any treatment is needed.