Can Eyes Change Colour?
In the coloured contacts phase that too place in the ‘90’s, it seemed as though every one was trying on a different shade to see what they would look like with another eye colour. Today, most people opt for natural peepers, but what about when your eyes change colour on their own? Is that even possible? Read on to learn the reasons why your eyes may change colour and when it’s a cause for concern.
How Eyes Get their Colour
The coloured part of the eye is called the iris, which has pigmentation that determines our eye colour. According to All about Vision, human eye colour originates with three genes, that account for the most common eye colours. Grey, hazel and multiple combinations are less common eye colours and remain a bit of a mystery.
Why are most babies born with blue eyes?
When babies are born, they are likely to have blue eyes. This is because they are low in melanin, the pigment responsible for eye, skin, and hair colour. Once the body is exposed to light, it begins to produce melanin which changes the colour of eyes babies are born with. Since babies are kept out of the sun, it can take a while for these changes to take place. Genes also play a factor in which eye colour you end up with. The more melanin you are born with, the more likely you are to have dark skin, and eyes.
Why Eyes Change Colour
What causes eyes to change colour?
Typically, your permanent eye colour is determined by the age of three. If your eyes change colour as an adult, it might be caused by:
- Medications- Certain medications such as glaucoma drops may darken eye colour over time.
- Sun exposure- Iris freckles (small brown spots) may appear causing the eye to look darker, or an increased production in melanin may cause eyes to darken.
- Trauma- Can damage the iris and affect pigmentation, or cause pupils to dilate which will make eyes appear darker.
- Age- 10-15% of the Caucasian population lose pigment in their iris as they age causing eye colour to fade or lighten.
When are eye colour changes a cause for concern?
If they are the result of trauma and possible damage to the iris, and if they are sudden, you should seek medical attention. As always, have regular eye exams with your Toronto area optometrist to record any changes in your eyes. According to the AAO, the medical conditions which cause pigment loss or changes to eye colour include:
- Pigmentary glaucoma– This develops as a result of Pigment dispersion syndrome, when pigment is lost from the back surface of the iris and those cells float to other parts of the eye. These cells can clog the eye’s drainage angle and increase eye pressure leading to glaucoma. It can affect eye colour, lightening parts of the iris where pigment falls away.
- Fuchs heterochromic iridocyclitis– This causes inflammation in some of the structures of the front of the eye, including the iris which leads to pigment loss, cataracts and glaucoma in some instances.
- Cataracts– A condition common in seniors, cataracts cloud the lens of the eye often causing the eye colour to appear milky or grey.
Rarer and more serious medical conditions which may change eye colour include:
Horner’s Syndrome: This disease causes complications with the third cranial nerve and may make the affected eye(s) lighter in colour.
Wilson’s Disease– Though rare, this condition causes a build-up of copper in the system and presents as an orange ring around the iris. This requires immediate medical attention.
Eye Colour and Emotions
Some people say that our emotions affect eye colour as well. Maybe that’s why they’re often referred to as the windows of the soul, and a way to gauge someone’s mood. That may be because of pupil dilation. The bigger our pupils become, the darker our eyes appear to be. When you’re angry, sad or extremely happy your body releases certain hormones which may affect the size of your pupil making eyes appear brighter, darker or more vibrant. If you’re in love you may open your eyes wider, letting in more light, which will make your eye colour brighter.
Did you know?
- Children can have a completely different eye colour than either of their parents
- Blue eyes are attributed to a recessive gene
- Everyone used to have brown eyes
- The most attractive eye colour to most people is blue
- Certain eye colours are more predisposed to health conditions
The Bottom Line
Eyes usually start out blue and then change over time. By the age of three, eye colour is pretty much fixed. While eyes may appear to change colour when we’re feeling blue, or wearing blue for that matter it is because of light reflection or pupil dilation, not the colour of the iris. Certain conditions can change the appearance of the iris the most common including: cataracts, and pigment dispersion syndrome. If your eye colour changes dramatically or if one eye changes from brown to green or blue to brown it’s important to book an eye exam.