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Everything You Need to Know About Heterochromia (Two Different Colored Eyes)

If you’re one of the people with different colored eyes in the world, you’re in good company. Heterochromia often makes eyes very distinct and memorable, and is even a trademark of many well-known celebrities’ looks - like David Bowie, Mila Kunis, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jane Seymour, to name a few. But why do some people have heterochromia and others don’t? Read on for more information.


What Causes Heterochromia?


Every single person on the planet gets their eye color from their genes. Even more specifically, their ultimate coloring depends on their mother’s and father’s alleles (which are one of two or more alternative forms of a gene), as well as which are recessive versus dominant.


Similarly, people with different colored eyes are most often born with this unique trait, stemming from the way in which their DNA from both parents combined. They may have one of the following three types of heterochromia:

  • Complete (each eye is a different color)
  • Central (the iris is one color, while the color that surrounds the pupil is different)
  • Sectoral (a piece of one or both irises is a different color from the rest of the iris)


Are there any Risks for People with Different Colored Eyes?


So in most cases, heterochromia is simply the result of DNA. But, rarely, it can be a sign of something else. If an infant had an accident or experienced trauma at birth, they could end up with different colored eyes afterward. It could also be a signal of an underlying disease, like Hirschsprung disease, Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome, von Recklinghausen disease or several others.


If someone develops heterochromia later in life, it’s referred to as “acquired heterochromia.” In these instances, it’s often the result of an injury, surgery, an eye condition like glaucoma (and the medications used to treat it), or a disease like diabetes mellitus or pigment dispersion syndrome.



Whether you have a baby who was born with heterochromia or are an adult who has developed it later in life, it’s always a good idea to have an eye doctor take a look. In most cases, the different colors of your eyes will be harmless and will be nothing more than a fun, unique trait to enjoy. But your doctor can tell you if there’s more to the coloring than meets the eye, and if there’s anything to be concerned about. Contact us to schedule an eye exam today.