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Heterochromia: What Is It and Should You be Concerned?

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Heterochromia is a medical condition with a lengthy history. It is about an individual having two different colors in irises, thus having different colored eyes. 

It can be with a newborn and can develop itself into a fully grown adult in the late 30s or early 40s or other age groups as well. Like other medical anomalies, some are harsh and some gentle.  

Heterochromia Types 

Heterochromia is a rare condition but its central form is mild and gentle and may not affect vision or cause other health conditions. Interestingly, the same central form of heterochromia which often occurs in ones’ later life could be a precursor for some underlying medical condition. 

Another kind is complete heterochromia in which one iris is a different color than the other. You will find partial heterochromia in which a part of the iris differs from the rest of it. Central heterochromia will show an inner ring, the color of which is different color from the outer area of the iris. 

Colour Formation 

Pigments make the color that’s in the iris. For example, the brown eye will have large melanin pigment deposits and the blue eye will lack melanin. The eye color is inherited. However, this pattern becomes complex if there’s cross-match of one or multiple genes. These genes will interact to give a full collection of colors. 


Causes for Heterochromia 

There are different causes for heterochromia conditions. Like, an infant may be born with this or may develop it sooner after birth. This is congenital heterochromia, here the infants will have no other symptoms and most will have no health problems. Sometimes heterochromia may come in infants with the following syndromes: 

  • Horner’s  Syndrome
  • Sturge-Weber Syndrome
  • Waardenburg Syndrome

Acquired heterochromia 

This condition often comes later in life and may come due to reasons like: 

  • Eye injuries 
  • Swelling because of uveitis 
  • Eye surgery 
  • Fuchs’ heterochromia cyclitis 
  • Glaucoma  
  • Pigment dispersion syndrome 
  • Central retinal vein occlusion 
  • Bleeding 
  • Ocular melanosis 


Diagnosis and Treatment 

An ophthalmologist can examine and identify heterochromia along with its underlying causes if any. If you got heterochromia as an adult, the ophthalmologist will make a detailed examination to decide whether a treatment plan is required.  

Remember, its treatment focuses mostly on identifying and treating any underlying medical condition. If you are using certain drugs for treating your glaucoma with heterochromia, it may cause other problems. 


If you find a change in color of the iris, you should immediately consult your doctor to find more about it and the remedy for its cure. 


Eventually, the appearance and different coloring of both eyes is usually the only sign to judge whether or not heterochromia exists.  This may not be noticeable unless you get a close-up photograph. So, you may keep observing the iris colors for infants and yourself to ensure your eye colors are intact. Early detection of it can get you some time for treatment or remedy.  

Written by Total Focus

At Total Focus Optometry, we’ve spent the last 70 years building meaningful relationships with our patients and their families. From routine eye exams to contact lens fittings we offer our patients a variety of services to meet their eye care needs.

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