Why Do I Have Different Colored Eyes? Your Guide to Heterochromia

Did you know that Mila Kunis and Kate Bosworth have something in common besides their successful acting careers? Both actresses have the captivating eye condition known as heterochromia.

Actress Kate Bosworth is known for her striking beauty, including her captivating eyes; one vibrantly blue, the other a blend of blue and hazel. This unique condition, called heterochromia, affects a very small percentage of people worldwide.

What is heterochromia?

Heterochromia refers to a difference in coloration within the iris, the colorful ring around your pupil. This uncommon condition can mean having two distinctly colored eyes (like one brown and one blue), an eye with a darker segment, or a multicolored appearance within a single iris. While usually harmless, an eye doctor should examine all cases of heterochromia to rule out any potential underlying health issues.

Types of heterochromia

If you see someone with different colored eyes, it’s not just your imagination! Heterochromia can make eyes look fascinating in a few different ways:
  • Two-toned: Just like it sounds, each eye is a completely different color.
  • Spotty: Imagine a splash of a different color across a section of the iris. This can happen in one or both eyes, with varying sizes of the colored sections.
  • Ring Around the Pupil: The center of the eye looks distinctly different from the outer ring of the iris. This less common type usually shows up in both eyes.

Contact an eye doctor near you if you notice a color difference between you or your child’s eyes.

What causes heterochromia?

  • Heterochromia usually starts at birth (congenital), resulting from a harmless genetic variation that influences pigment in the eyes. Less commonly, it can develop later on (acquired heterochromia) due to eye injuries, health conditions, or certain medications.

  • Congenital Origins: Often it’s just a difference in how color develops in each eye, unrelated to any disease. Rarely, some medical conditions present at birth can cause heterochromia, such as Waardenburg syndrome or Horner’s syndrome.

  • Acquired Changes: If eye color differences appear later in life, it’s important to see a doctor. Potential causes include eye injuries, glaucoma, tumors, or reactions to specific medications.

How is heterochromia diagnosed?
During a full eye exam, your doctor doesn’t just check your vision – they’ll carefully examine the health of your eyes, including looking for signs that might explain any color differences. Be sure to mention other changes you’ve noticed in your vision, eye comfort, or overall health, as these clues can help your doctor pinpoint the cause. They might suggest further tests, like bloodwork or genetic screening,
Can heterochromia be treated?
  • If an underlying health condition is causing heterochromia, successfully treating that condition might sometimes resolve the eye color changes.
  • No matter the cause, an eye doctor should always evaluate cases of heterochromia. While it’s often a harmless variation, it’s important to rule out any potential health concerns. Remember, the iris (the colored part of your eye) plays a crucial role in vision!