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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What are risk factors for heterochromia iridis?

Familial genetic abnormalities, ocular trauma, and inflammation are all risk factors for the development of heterochromia iridis. The use of prostaglandin analogue eyedrops is a modifiable risk factor.

What are heterochromia iridis symptoms and signs?

The appearance of different coloration between the two eyes is usually the only symptom or sign. Many times the difference is so slight that it is only noticed under certain lighting conditions or in close-up photographs. If inflammation or trauma is the cause, other signs or symptoms may be present.

How is heterochromia iridis diagnosed?

Heterochromia iris is usually noted by the parent of a baby or in acquired cases, by the patient or a family member. Diagnosis can be confirmed through slit lamp examination by an ophthalmologist.

Is there a treatment for heterochromia iridis?

If the heterochromia is secondary to an underlying cause such as inflammation, treatment should be directed at the underlying condition. In situations in which there is a major cosmetic impairment, a tinted contact lens may be used to darken the lighter appearing eye or lighten the darker appearing eye. Two different colored contact lenses may also be used to arrive at an average color.

What is the prognosis of heterochromia iridis?

The vast majority of people with heterochromia iridis have an excellent prognosis and have no visual complaints. Most cases are very mild, nonprogressive, and unassociated with any other illness or eye disease. In patients with associated ocular or systemic problems, treatment of the underlying abnormality is often successful in preventing visual loss.

Medically reviewed by William Baer, MD; Board Certified Ophthalmology

REFERENCES:

Imesch, P. D., et al. "The color of the human eye: a review of morphologic correlates and of some conditions that affect iridial pigmentation throughout life." Survey of Ophthalmology. 41 (Suppl 2): S117-S123.

Olitsky, S. E., et al. "Abnormalities of pupil and iris." In: Kliegman, R. M., et al. (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. (Chapter 614) 19th Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier, 2011.

Tabbut, B. R., et al. "Fuchs' heterochromic iridocyclitis in blacks." Archives of Ophthalmology. 106:12 (1998): 1688-1690.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015

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