Heterochromia is when a person’s irises are different colors. There are a few kinds of heterochromia. Complete heterochromia is when one iris is a different color than the other. When part of one iris is a different color than the rest of it, this is called partial heterochromia. Central heterochromia is when there is an inner ring that is a different color than the outer area of the iris.

But what causes heterochromia and should people with the condition be concerned?

Heterochromia Causes

There are many types and causes of heterochromia. An infant can be born with it or develop it soon after birth. In these cases, it is called congenital heterochromia.

In most cases, children born with heterochromia will experience no other symptoms. They do not have any other problems with their eyes or general health. However, in some cases heterochromia can be a symptom of another condition.

Causes of heterochromia in infants can include:

  • Horner’s syndrome
  • Benign heterochromia
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Piebaldism
  • Hirschsprung disease
  • Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome
  • von Recklinghausen disease
  • Bourneville disease
  • Parry-Romberg syndrome

When a person gets heterochromia later in life, this is called acquired heterochromia.

Causes of acquired heterochromia include:

  • Eye injury
  • Bleeding in the eye
  • Swelling, due to iritis or uveitis
  • Eye surgery
  • Fuchs’ heterochromic cyclitis
  • Acquired Horner’s syndrome
  • Glaucoma and some medications used to treat it
  • Latisse, a repurposed glaucoma medication used cosmetically to thicken eyelashes
  • Pigment dispersion syndrome
  • Ocular melanosis
  • Posner-Schlossman syndrome
  • Iris ectropion syndrome
  • Benign and malignant tumors of the iris
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Central retinal vein occlusion
  • Chediak-Higashi syndrome

Heterochromia diagnosis and treatment

If your infant has heterochromia, he or she should be examined by an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist will confirm the appearance of heterochromia and look for any underlying causes. In most cases, there will be no concerning disease or condition causing the eye color variation. However, it is important to rule out these conditions.

If you get heterochromia as an adult or it changes in appearance, see your ophthalmologist. He or she can perform a detailed eye exam to rule out any underlying causes and come up with a treatment plan if necessary.

Treatment for heterochromia focuses on treating any underlying causes for the condition. If there are no other issues with the eyes, no treatment may be needed.