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What is Heterochromia and can a person get it?

January 28, 2021

What is Heterochromia?

Ever see a person, or an animal and they had two different eye colors? Heterochromia is when someone has a difference in eye color.

There are three main types:

  • COMPLETE heterochromia, which is when someone has two different eye colors.
  • CENTRAL heterochromia, which is when there are different eye colors within the same eye.
  • Lastly, there is PARTIAL heterochromia, which is when only part of one iris is a different color than the rest.

According to Medical News Today, less than 200,000 Americans have this rare condition, but animals have a higher percentage.

What causes it?

Variations in the concentration and distribution of melanin can cause it. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin, hair, and eyes color. If someone is born with this condition, it will most likely not produce any other symptoms.

In children who are born with it, or develop it soon after birth, it is called “Congenital Heterochromia.” Unfortunately, while not common, it can be an indicator of another underlying condition. There are many possibilities, so it is important to schedule an exam by an optometrist to rule out any of the underlying conditions.

What if it develops later in life?

When it develops later in life, whether it be complete, central, or partial there are again many different underlying conditions that could possibly cause it. The development later in life is “Acquired Heterochromia.”

Some common causes are eye injury, eye surgery or diabetes. The list is still pretty long for possible issues so if you notice heterochromia in yourself. If you notice signs, make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible. The bottom line is, no matter if your child is born with this condition or if it develops later in life for you, an eye doctor should look at it. It most likely is just a cool feature you get to carry with you for life, but it is good to rule out anything else that could be causing it.

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