Why do people have two different colored eyes?

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It’s pretty rare, but as Mei Fleming, OD tells us, less than 1 percent of the population are born with two different colored eyes, known as heterochromia. Each year on July 12, we celebrate this unique trait with National Different Colored Eyes Day.

Why do people have two different colored eyes?

“Most causes of heterochromia are genetic,” explained Mei Fleming, OD. “It’s inherited and usually it doesn’t cause any vision problems.”

The eye condition is a result of either an excess or a lack of melanin, a natural pigment that determines our eye, skin and hair color. According to Dr. Fleming, heterochromia can show up in various ways.

“Heterochromia can be very subtle, or it can be sectorial, meaning a section of the iris is a different color, or it can be the entire iris where one eye is a completely different color than the other,” said Dr. Fleming.

Although typically genetic, a person can still develop heterochromia later in life.

“If you acquire heterochromia it could be due to trauma to the eye, medication you may have taken or some disease,” said Dr. Fleming. “Any acquired changes in the color of your iris needs to be evaluated by an optometrist.”

A comprehensive eye exam with you eye doctor can rule out any serious issues. Use our helpful tool to Find a Doctor near you.

Can you name a celebrity with heterochromia? Watch Dr. Fleming on this episode of #AskAnEyeDoc to see if your answer matches up.

10 Comments

  • Doug Smith says:

    ” Genetic causes ” reveals the category of etiology but should suggest further investigation through extended interview and seeking serological disease markers that could reveal dormant and possibly incipient diseases transmitted from one generation to the next.

  • Judy B Holt says:

    I have had one blue/hazel eye and a large portion of the other brown since birth. Have a cousin with small brown spot. Age is 72. Been wearing glasses since 80’s. Now growing cataracts. No degeration suspected.

  • Mona says:

    Jane Seymore

  • Lisa Ann Miller says:

    Jane Seemore has two different eye colors

  • Ron says:

    Why do a persons eyes change colors. For instance my eyes go from green to blue depending on what I am wearing, color wise.

    • Beth says:

      Mine do that too. They are green usually but often times they will change to a steel blue color depending on what I’m wearing. Would be curious to have an answer on this one too.

  • I know of a celebrity that had 2 different color eyes. He was singer David Bowie He was in a fight at school, and was punched really hard in the eye. His pupil was blown and the Iris changed color!

  • Anne Stewart says:

    Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals has two different colored eyes.

  • Dennis Rieder says:

    …they say….my two different colored eyes match my two different colored personalities

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