What is Heterochromia?

What is Heterochromia? | Florida Eye Specialists

Heterochromia is a somewhat rare condition in which there are variations of color in the iris of one or both eyes. It is estimated that around one in six people have it, although in some cases it may be barely discernible so an individual may not even realize that they have it. A common misconception is that it is only confined to one eye being one color and the other eye a different color. However, there are several types of heterochromia.

  • Complete heterochromia – The iris in one eye is one color and the iris in the other eye is a different color.
  • Partial heterochromia – Confined to one eye so a portion of the iris is a different color from the rest of the iris.
  • Central heterochromia – There is an inner ring in the iris that is a different color than the rest of the iris.

Causes of Heterochromia

A person can be born with heterochromia or it may develop during infancy. This is called congenital heterochromia. However, it can also occur as the result of an injury or an underlying condition like glaucoma or a tumor. Congenital heterochromia typically presents with no other symptoms beyond the differences in eye color. When it is related to a medical condition, the symptoms of that condition may be present. Heterochromia itself has no complications or symptoms.

Some medical conditions that cause heterochromia can include:

  • Horner’s syndrome
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome
  • Injury to the eye
  • Eye swelling caused by uveitis or iritis
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Tumor (malignant or benign)
  • Central retinal vein occlusion

How Heterochromia is Diagnosed

An ophthalmologist will usually diagnose heterochromia, although it may first be detected by a pediatrician or other healthcare professional. A visual exam where the differences in color are noted is the extent of the heterochromia diagnosis, but a complete examination will be performed to rule out any underlying condition.

Anyone who notices a spontaneous change in the appearance of their eyes should see their ophthalmologist. When heterochromia suddenly appears it could mean that there is a problem with the eye or that there is a medical condition that is causing it. The doctor will employ various diagnostic criteria to identify what, if any, medical issues are causing the condition.

Treatment for Heterochromia

Congenital heterochromia does not typically require any treatment because it usually presents no danger to the eye, does not impair vision, or cause any other issues with the eyes. If it is the result of a medical condition, then it is that condition that must be treated. This means that treatment for heterochromia can vary widely.

At Florida Eye Specialists, we use the most innovative technology available to care for our patients. Your eye health is important, and we strive to give you the best experience possible from routine eye exams to treatment for eye conditions to eye surgery. We have six locations in the Jacksonville area to better serve you, so call us today at (904) 564-2020 to schedule an appointment, or request an appointment online.