What is Heterochromia - First Eye Care North Arlington

What is Heterochromia?

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Not Everyone’s Eyes Are The Same Color

One of the first things other people recognize about you is your eyes. Everything from how you look at them to their color stands out to other people. The color of your eyes is a unique part of who you are. It can complete how you look and help you stand out in a crowd of people. Eye color can range from many different colors, from blue and green to hazel and brown. However, there are some instances where your eyes may not match in color. Some people are born with two different eye colors, giving them an exciting and unique look. This condition is known as heterochromia.

“Hetero-” means different while “-chromia” means colors, which means heterochromia translates to “different colors.” There are many eye conditions that a person can be born with or develop in their lives. Some are vision-threatening, such as glaucoma, while others a benign, such as heterochromia. Most cases of heterochromia do not threaten your vision at all and are often just an aesthetic change. However, it is essential to always have your eyes checked if you develop this condition later in life.

Heterochromia is a unique condition that plagues only a select few individuals in the world. Many people only know that your eyes are different colors, and that’s it. Today, First Eye Care North Arlington will take a deeper look into what heterochromia is.

Understanding Heterochromia

As we mentioned earlier, heterochromia translates to “different colors.” Typically, this term is used to describe a condition that causes your eyes to be different colors – one blue and one brown, for example. This condition is often benign and causes no vision issues, nor does it threaten your vision later in life.

It is often referred to as heterochromia iridis or heterochromia iridium. Both iridis and iridium refer to the eyes’ iris, the thin, circular part of your eye surrounding the pupil that contain the pigment melanin and give your eye its color.

Irises with more melanin are darker than those with less. Brown eyes have more melanin in their irises than blue eyes. Someone with heterochromia will have eyes that do not match in color. However, there is more than one type:

  • Complete Heterochromia: Easily the most recognizable type of this condition, those with complete heterochromia will have the iris of one eye be a completely different color than the iris of the other
  • Partial Heterochromia: This occurs when only a portion of an iris in one eye is a different color than the rest of the iris, and it can occur in one or both eyes
  • Central Heterochromia: The iris has a different color near the border of the pupil, which is different than the rest of the iris

Additionally, it is also classified by the difference in iris colors:

  • Hypochromic: when the abnormal iris is a lighter color than the normal one
  • Hyperchromic: when the abnormal iris is a darker color than the normal one

Heterochromia, all types, is very rare, affecting only a select few individuals. While it is an eye condition, it is usually benign and does not threaten the health of your eye or your vision.


Heterochromia is often developed at birth or shortly after birth. This is known as congenital heterochromia, which is typically inherited. Usually, a child with congenital heterochromia will experience no other symptoms other than the discoloration of their pupils. Their vision and eye health are in no danger. However, in rare cases, this condition is a symptom of another congenital disease, such as:

These are just a few congenital diseases an infant can be born with that can lead to heterochromia. While it’s more common to be born with this condition, it is entirely possible to develop it later in life. This is referred to as acquired heterochromia. Some causes that can lead to this include:

  • Eye injuries
  • Glaucoma
  • Eye surgery
  • Fuchs syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Certain medications
  • Eye cancer
  • Pigment dispersion syndrome

While typically there are no risk factors when it comes to heterochromia, if it is the result of an inherited disease, it can cause issues with your vision and threaten the overall health of your eyes.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing heterochromia is relatively straightforward. You will need to schedule an exam with an ophthalmologist, so they can confirm the condition. They will also look for any underlying issues that may have caused this condition. If you are a parent to an infant that has developed heterochromia, it is incredibly important that you have an eye care specialist examine their eyes to ensure that there is no condition that could threaten their health and vision. The same goes for those with acquired heterochromia. You should always visit an eye care specialist if you notice a change in eye color.

If a disease is discovered, your eye care doctor will refer you to a specialist to treat it. However, more often than not, there is no other causative disease behind heterochromia.

As we have said, it’s rare to find a causative disease behind your heterochromia. Most cases are benign and cause no problems for your health or vision. There is usually no need to treat your condition. However, it’s understandable that some people would want to hide their condition due to self-esteem issues. If you want your eyes to have the same color, you can wear colored contact lenses. Simply visit your eye doctor to get a lens prescription.

Heterochromia is an incredibly rare eye condition that affects only a small portion of people across the globe. This eye condition often leads to people having unique and striking eye colors. Most cases are benign and cause no other issues, but some are a symptom of a greater problem. That’s why it is important to have an eye exam for all cases of heterochromia. If you are looking to schedule an eye exam, contact First Eye Care North Arlington today.

Comments 1

  1. I have heterochromia. My right eye is blue and my left eye is green. I would really like to get contacts (either blue or green) to have both eyes match. I have tried colors in the eyes but never seem to get a very good match. Suggestions would be helpful I really feel like I need to try lots of different colors in order to get a good match….

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