Can your eyes change color?

Have you ever noticed that your eye color seems to change when wearing a particular color? Or perhaps you've been told that your mood can influence your eye color. So, do your eyes really change color? When it comes to eye color, you usually just accept what you're born with. Many eye color "changes" are just tricks of the light. If your eye color does change, it typically appears only a bit lighter or darker in color. A significant change in eye color may indicate an eye injury or condition needing treatment.

Take a closer look with the professionals at EyeCare Associates to learn more about what's behind your eye color and what may cause it to change.

Melanin’s Role in Eye Color

Eye color is created by a type of pigmentation called melanin. Melanin concentrates in a part of the eye called the iris, which is the circular area around your pupil. The iris works to allow light to enter your eyes, with the pigments in the iris being your eye color. People who produce more melanin have darker eyes, such as brown eyes. Those with less melanin will have lighter color irises, often having blue or green eyes.

How Genetics Influence Your Eye Color

The amount of melanin in your irises, and thus your eye color, is determined by your genes. There are several genes that help determine eye color. Many of these genes also play a role in the coloring of your hair and skin. Of course, your parents' eye colors help determine what eye color you might have. If both parents have blue eyes, chances are their child will also have blue eyes. In parents with different eye colors, it can be harder to determine their children’s eye color.

It is possible for a person’s eye color to be different from their parents due to varying genetics in their family. For instance, a child of parents with brown eyes may have blue eyes if they have grandparents with blue eyes. If you're wondering which side of the family a newborn baby's eyes came from, you may want to wait a few months. It's completely normal for a baby's eye color to change and darken over the first few months of their life. That's because melanocytes, which are cells in the body that secrete melanin, continue to secrete in the eyes for about six months after birth.

Expect Minor Changes in Eye Color

There is a possibility of minor changes in eye color as an adult. It’s common for long-term sun exposure to cause eye color to darken slightly. In fact, a small percentage of Caucasian people’s eyes lighten as they age. For the most part, your eye color will not change. Any significant changes in eye color may be a sign of a larger problem. Let's dive into reasons eye color may appear different versus the factors that may cause it to change.

Girl with Contacts

Common Explanations for Changes in Eye Color

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Eye Color Change

There are a few medical conditions that may change the color of your eyes. These can include: 

  • Iris Color Change due to Eye Injury - Trauma to the eye could make your eye color appear different. After any injury to your eye, it’s important to schedule an eye exam to ensure no long-term damage was caused.

  • Lisch Nodules - Caused by neurofibromatosis, Lisch nodules are small brown bumps that grow on the top part of the iris. These bumps do not cause vision loss, but medical treatment is required to support people with neurofibromatosis.

  • Fuchs Heterochromic Iridocyclitis (FHI) - Fuchs Heterochromic Iridocyclitis (FHI) is an inflammation that occurs in parts in the front of the eye, including the iris. A symptom of FHI is a loss of iris pigmentation, which may change your eye color. FHI may also cause cataracts, and if left untreated can lead to glaucoma.

  • Changes in Color Due to Medication - Prostaglandins, a medication commonly used to treat glaucoma, can lead to darker eye color. These color changes caused by the medication can be permanent.

  • Horner’s Syndrome - Those who have suffered a stroke or an injury to the nerves on one side of their face may suffer from Horner's syndrome. Horner’s syndrome can cause one pupil to appear larger than the other, affecting the color of the iris. This condition can also cause iris depigmentation, making your eye appear less colorful.

  • Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE) - Also called ICE syndrome, this can cause cells from the cornea (the clear, front layer of the eye) to move to the iris, creating spots on the iris that affect eye color. ICE syndrome can sometimes lead to glaucoma.

Cosmetically Changing Your Eye Color

Looking to change your eye color through a cosmetic surgery? It may be a while before it’s allowed. While a procedure exists for cosmetic iris implants, it's not FDA-approved due to its high level of risk. Your best bet is to use prescription colored contact lenses to temporarily change your eye color.


Noticing Changes in Eye Color? Schedule an Eye Exam Today

For most people, eye color will not change significantly past infancy. If you notice a change in your eye color, set an appointment with an eye doctor to help find the cause. If it's a major change that happens suddenly, ask for an urgent appointment.

The optometrists at EyeCare Associates can help you figure out what's causing a change in your eye color, allowing you to feel confident about your eye health.

Find an EyeCare Associates location near you today for more information or to schedule an eye exam.