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All About Heterochromia

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Though the colored part of the human eye, known as the iris, is almost always the same color in both eyes, a condition known as heterochromia iridum can sometimes change this. Often referred to by eye care professionals simply as “heterochromia,” this condition occurs when either each eye has a completely different colored iris, or part of one iris has a different color than the rest.

Types of Heterochromia

A few different kinds of heterochromia exist, depending on how noticeable the difference in color there is, and where those differences can be seen.

Complete heterochromia occurs when one iris is a completely different color from the other. The iris in one eye may be blue, for example, while the other is brown.

When only part of one iris is different in color from the rest of the iris in the same eye, this is called partial or segmented heterochromia.

With central heterochromia, a ring can be seen in one iris that is a different color from the rest of the iris in the same eye.

Hyperchromic heterochromia and hypochromic heterochromia refer not to the location of the difference in color, but to how light or dark the difference is in relation to the rest of the eye.

Hyperchromic heterochromia refers to the abnormal iris (or part of the iris) being darker in color than the normal one.

Hypochromic heterochromia happens when the abnormal iris (or part of the iris) is lighter in color than the normal one.

Does Heterochromia Need Treatment?

In and of itself, heterochromia is not dangerous and has no symptoms outside of the differences in eye color. Therefore, there is usually no need to treat it.

However, in circumstances of head injury or disease, heterochromia can be one of several symptoms. In this case, it’s important to consult a medical professional immediately to determine what the issue is and if treatment for the underlying condition is necessary.

Want to learn more about heterochromia and your health? Contact our Sunnyvale eye doctors at Silicon Valley Eye Physicians today!


What causes heterochromia?

In most cases, heterochromia develops randomly, with no link to family history or any underlying health problem. However, it’s also possible for heterochromia to develop later in life because of eye or systemic diseases, eye injury, surgery, or the use of certain medications.

Can heterochromia cause blindness?

On it’s own, heterochromia doesn’t cause blindness. However, blindness can still occur if heterochromia is accompanied by other symptoms such as inflammation of the eye, headaches, or double vision. These can be signs of more serious underlying conditions that may require treatment.