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Heterochromia

Definition

Heterochromia is different colored eyes in the same person.

Alternative Names

Differently colored eyes; Eyes - different colors

Considerations

Heterochromia is uncommon in humans. However, it is quite common in dogs (such as Dalmatians and Australian sheep dogs), cats, and horses.

Causes

Most cases of heterochromia are hereditary, caused by a disease or syndrome, or due to an injury. Sometimes, 1 eye may change color following certain diseases or injuries.

Specific causes of eye color changes include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Talk to your health care provider if you notice new changes in the color of 1 eye, or 2 differently colored eyes in your infant. A thorough eye exam is needed to rule out a medical problem.

Some conditions and syndromes associated with heterochromia, such as pigmentary glaucoma, can only be detected by a thorough eye exam.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider may ask the following questions to help evaluate the cause:

  • Did you notice the 2 different eye colors when the child was born, shortly after the birth, or recently?
  • Are any other symptoms present?

An infant with heterochromia should be examined by both a pediatrician and an ophthalmologist for other possible problems.

A complete eye exam can rule out most causes of heterochromia. If there doesn't seem to be an underlying disorder, no further testing may be needed. If another disorder is suspected, diagnostic tests, such as blood tests or chromosome studies, may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

References

Lee BS, Samuelson TW. Glaucoma associated with pseudoexfoliation syndrome. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 10.

Olitsky SE, Hug D, Plummer LS, et al. Abormalities of pupil and iris. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 622.

Review Date:11/19/2015
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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