Heterochromia Iridis

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Heterochromia iridis facts

  • Heterochromia iridis is an uncommon condition in which the two eyes are different in color.
  • Heterochromia iridis may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired.
  • Hereditary heterochromia iridis may be associated with other abnormalities of the eyes or body.
  • Acquired heterochromia is usually due to an eye disease.
  • If the condition is acquired, treatment may be directed at the underlying cause.
  • Colored contact lenses may be used for cosmetic results.
  • Most cases of heterochromia iridis are mild and do not have associated problems.

What is heterochromia iridis?

Heterochromia iridis is a condition in which the iris in one eye has a different color than the iris of the other eye. The iris is the tissue of the eye that surrounds the pupil and imparts a color, whether green, blue, brown, hazel, grey, or other, to the eye. Heterochromia iridis is to be differentiated from heterochromia (difference in color) iridum (within the iris of one eye).

Iris color is the result of the pigment that is present in the iris. Brown eyes have large amounts of melanin pigment deposits, and blue eyes have a lack of melanin. Although eye color is inherited, the inheritance pattern is complex, with interaction of more than one gene. These genes interact to provide the full constellation of colors. Other genes may determine the pattern and placement of pigment in the iris, thereby accounting for solid brown as opposed to rays of color. Normally, the two irises of an individual are of the same color. In heterochromia, the affected eye may be hyperpigmented (darker or hyperchromic) or hypopigmented (lighter or hypochromic). Eye color is determined primarily by the concentration and distribution of melanin within the iris tissues.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015

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