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Eye conditions, especially those that appear or have the potential to worsen later in life can be concerning. When a person's irises are different colors, whether partially or completely, they have heterochromia. People can be born with this condition or it can occur later in adult life.

Types

Melanin deposits determine eye color, with blue eyes having small amounts of melanin and brown eyes containing a lot of melanin. While eye color can slightly change over time, two different colored eyes or different patches of colors within the eyes may be a sign of heterochromia.

There are three different types of heterochromia, each with different visible signs.

  • Complete heterochromia: This type is when one entire iris is a different color than the other. An example of this would be when someone has one brown eye and one green eye. Sectoral/Partial heterochromia: This type is when sections within one iris are different colors. For example, this would be shown when one eye is brown with blue sections.
  • Central heterochromia: This type is when the inner ring of the iris is a different color than the outer areas.

The causes and treatments do not depend on the type of condition. The type of heterochromia clarifies the location of the different colored sections.

Causes

There is not one singular cause for this condition and according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, the majority of heterochromia cases are not linked to family history of the condition.

When a child is born with heterochromia, called congenital heterochromia, they often do not suffer from any other symptoms or problems with their overall health. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are some cases in which this condition can be a sign of a more serious issue such as:

  • Piebaldism
  • Benign heterochromia
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome
  • Horner’s syndrome
  • And more

Acquired heterochromia is when someone develops heterochromia later in life, usually as a result of illness, medication usage or injury. Although not as common as the genetic form, there are a variety of potential causes for this condition to occur later:

  • Eye injury
  • Acquired Homer’s Syndrome
  • Bleeding/swelling in the eye
  • Diabetes
  • Fuchs’ heterochromic cyclitis
  • Glaucoma and some medications used to treat it

Visiting an opthamologist and general doctor will help in determining if your heterochromia is linked to another issue.

Diagnosis

If the person has two different colored eyes or one eye with differently colored sections, they most likely have the condition. Some color differences are easily noticed while others may only become apparent in pictures or specific lighting.

Treatments

If heterochromia is determined to be caused by an underlying condition, then treatment will be performed to target that issue. Some heterochromia is not a result of another condition and therefore will not need further treatment.

How we can help

Changes in your vision and eye appearance should be taken seriously. Even if you can see fine, regular eye exams are important to ensure that the inside of your eye is functioning properly and that there are no signs of developing issues.

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