Can your eyes change color?

Can Your Eyes Change Color?

Have you ever caught a glimpse of your eyes in the mirror and thought they looked a shade different when wearing a particular color of clothing? Or perhaps someone commented that your eyes seem to shift in hue depending on your mood. It raises the question: Can our eye colors truly change, or are they fixed traits from birth?

At Grene Vision Group, we understand the curiosity behind these observations. Most of us are bestowed with our eye colors at birth and live with that hue throughout our lives. What many perceive as changes in eye color are often optical illusions or the play of light.

However, while these minor variations are common, any drastic change in eye color could be a sign of an eye injury or underlying issue. It's crucial to differentiate between these natural light-induced shifts and potential health concerns.

Let's delve deeper into the science and myths surrounding eye color and uncover the truth behind its potential changes.

Eye Color Can Change a Small Amount

It's not entirely uncommon to observe subtle shifts in eye color during adulthood. Extended exposure to sunlight, for instance, might lead to a mild darkening of the eyes. Additionally, a minor segment of the Caucasian population may experience a lightening of their eye hue as they advance in age. 

However, it's essential to understand that these are typically not fundamental changes. Any pronounced alteration in eye color should be approached with caution, as it could be indicative of a more serious underlying issue.

Why Your Eyes Might “Change” Color

Optical Illusions

Individuals with lighter eye hues might notice that their eye color seemingly adapts based on the clothing they wear. This perceived shift is not a genuine change but rather an optical illusion influenced by surrounding colors and lighting conditions.

Pupil Dilation

When your pupils get bigger (dilate), it's because they're adjusting to the light around you. For example, in a dimly lit room, they'll open up to let in more light. This makes your eyes look a bit darker since we see less of the colored part, the iris. 

Also, when you feel strong emotions, your pupils can change size too. This is probably where the idea comes from that our eyes can change color with our mood. But really, it's all about how much of the iris is showing.

Getting Lots of Sunlight

Unlike the other two reasons eyes “change color,” exposure to sunlight can actually change the color of your iris a bit. Just like any other part of the body, spending a lot of time soaking up UV rays can cause freckles to appear on the eye. They usually appear as flecks of darker coloring in the iris, but can sometimes appear on the white part of the eye, the sclera, as well. While too much exposure to UV rays is bad for a variety of reasons, a light dusting of eye freckles is generally harmless.

When You Need to See a Doctor

Along with the handful of harmless reasons your eyes might change color listed above, there are also a lot of medical reasons your eyes might be swapping hues. Many of these conditions require treatment from an eye care professional to successfully manage symptoms. 

Eye Injuries

If you get a knock or bump to the eye, it might make your eye color look a bit different. If something like that happens, you should get it checked out to make sure everything's okay and there's no lasting damage.

Fuchs Heterochromic Irodocyclitis (FHI)

This is a condition where the front of the eye, especially the iris, gets inflamed. This can lead to a change in the color of your iris as it loses pigmentation. It can also result in cataracts, a clouding of your eye’s natural lens. If not taken care of, it can progress to glaucoma. It's always important to get regular check-ups to catch and address any eye issues early on.

Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE)

Sometimes referred to as ICE syndrome, this condition causes cells from the cornea (that's the clear front part of your eye) to shift to the iris. This migration can result in spots on the iris, altering its appearance. It's also worth noting that ICE syndrome may elevate the risk of developing glaucoma.

Horner’s Syndrome

Horner’s syndrome often arises from a stroke or nerve damage on one side of the face. This relatively rare condition affects the pupil or iris, leading to a noticeable difference in pupil size and potentially altering the eye color's appearance. It can also result in pigment loss within the iris.

Lisch Nodules

Lisch nodules show up as little brown bumps on the upper part of the iris. They're often linked to a condition called neurofibromatosis. While these nodules typically don't lead to vision loss, managing neurofibromatosis does necessitate medical attention and care.

Changes in Eye Color from Medication

While not as serious as the other medical conditions on this list, it’s still advised to see a doctor if your medication begins to change your eye color. In some cases, these changes can become permanent.

Where Does Eye Color Come From?

Eye color hinges on a pigment known as melanin. This pigment gathers in the iris, the colored ring around your pupil, influencing the amount of light your eyes take in. The more melanin present, the darker the eyes. So, folks with brown eyes have more melanin, while those with blue or green eyes have less.

Your genes dictate the melanin concentration in your irises, determining your eye color. Various genes contribute to this, and many are involved in determining your hair and skin color too. Your parents' eye shades also influence yours. For instance, two blue-eyed parents often have blue-eyed kids. But if one parent has blue eyes and the other brown, their child's eye color becomes a bit of a wild card.

Interestingly, even if parents share an eye color, their child could sport a different hue due to other family genes. Say, if grandparents had blue eyes, their brown-eyed child might end up with a blue-eyed grandchild.

Curious about a baby's eye color and its genetic origins? Give it time. Newborns' eyes might change shade during their first few months. This shift occurs as melanocytes, the cells producing melanin, stay active in the eyes for up to six months post-birth.

Can I Change My Eye Color On Purpose?

Many people wonder if it’s possible to make cosmetic changes to the color of your eyes. Unfortunately, while a type of cosmetic surgery exists to implant different color irises in your eyes, it is not FDA-approved and has an extremely high level of risk. 

If you want to change the color of your eyes, the best option is to use colored contacts. However, you need to be careful here too. Over-the-counter colored contacts are made of cheap materials that can scratch and injure your eyes. If you want to use colored contacts, talk to your Grene Vision Group eye doctor about getting prescription colored contacts. 

Schedule an Exam with Grene Vision Group

For the majority, once we move past babyhood, our eye color stays pretty consistent. If you spot any changes in yours, it's a good idea to book a visit with an eye doctor to uncover the reason. And if it's a sudden, noticeable shift, seek an immediate appointment.

The skilled optometrists at Grene Vision Group in the Wichita, Kansas area are here to help decode any changes in your eye color, ensuring you feel secure about your eye well-being.

Want to learn more or book an eye check-up? Locate a Grene Vision Group near you today.

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