Eyes Of A Different Color: Understanding Heterochromia And Its Causes

Christopher Walken is famous for dancing in a music video, playing bad guys on the big screen, and gracing the Broadway stage. One thing that you might not know about him is that he has heterochromia, a unique eye condition.

What is Heterochromia?

If the irises in your eyes are two different colors, you have what doctors call heterochromia. It can be a genetically-inherited condition, or the result of injury or disease.

Heterochromia comes in three forms: complete, central, and sectoral. If you have complete heterochromia, your eyes are two completely different colors, like brown and green. If you have central heterochromia, the area around your pupil is a different color than the rest of your iris. If you have sectoral heterochromia, you have a blotch of color in your iris that is different than your primary eye color.

Will Heterochromia Negatively Impact My Vision?

Just because heterochromia is not a common eye phenomenon does not mean that it will negatively impact your vision. If you inherited your heterochromia, you probably received the gene from one of your parents, or you were once a fraternal twin and fused with your twin in the womb, or your inherited cells formed a kind of mosaic. These circumstances will seldom lead to a vision problem.

Sometimes, however, heterochromia is inherited along with a genetic disorder. The most common genetic disorders that have heterochromia as a side effect are Waardenburg syndrome, Hirschsprung's disease, and piebalding. These genetic disorders have their own medical conditions that affect other areas of the body besides the eyes. For example, if you have Waardenburd syndrome, not only will you have heterochromia, but you will also have an increased risk of premature grey hair, deafness, and partial albinism.

You may have developed your heterochromia instead of inheriting it. This can happen as a result of certain eye drop use, blunt trauma, or iron exposure. Sometimes, these incidents can result in vision loss, as is commonly the case when heterochromia results from iron exposure.

If you have one of the three forms of heterochromia, and you are also experiencing symptoms of vision loss or ocular pain, then you should schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist like California Eye Specialists Medical Group Inc. as soon as possible. Different colored eyes are not in and of themselves a health problem, but they can be a symptom of a genetically-inherited or acquired disorder. Because of the numerous potential causes of heterochromia, only your doctor can definitively diagnose why your eyes are mismatched. In most cases, there is no cause for concern; if your doctor confirms that there are no underlying medical concerns, embrace your artistic eye color and enjoy your vision.