Can your eyes change color?

Maybe you've noticed that wearing a certain color makes your eyes pop or seemingly shift to a slightly different shade. Or perhaps you've been told that your eyes shifts colors with your mood. But can your eyes really change color?

When it comes to eye color, most people have to accept what they’re born with. Many eye color "changes" are just tricks of the light. If your eye color does change, it's typically very minor. A significant change in eye color could indicate an eye injury or another eye problem.

Let's take a closer look at what's behind your eye color and what may cause it to change.

How Eye Color is Determined

Eye color is created by a type of pigmentation called melanin. Melanin concentrates in a part of the eye called the iris, which is a circular area around your pupil that helps control how much light enters your eyes. The more melanin you have in your eyes, the darker your eyes will be. So, people with brown eyes produce more melanin than someone with blue or green eyes.

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, and many of them also play a role in the coloring of your hair and skin.

Genetics Play a Part in Eye Color

A couple's eye color helps to determine what eye color their children might have. It’s common to see two parents with blue eyes that have children with blue eyes. If one parent has blue eyes and the other has brown eyes, then their child's eye color is less predictable.

Still, it's possible for a child's eye color to be different from what their parents have. This can happen due to other genetics in the 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 person'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. For most people, eye color will not change significantly past infancy.

Minor Changes in Color are Possible

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 Reasons for Changes in Eye Color

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

  • Eye Injury - Certain traumas to the eye could make your eye color appear different.

  • Lisch Nodules - These are small brown bumps growing on top of the iris caused by the condition neurofibromatosis. They do not affect your vision, though neurofibromatosis does require medical support to manage.

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

  • Changes in Color Due to Medication - Some medications can lead to darker eye color. These color changes caused by the medication can be permanent.

  • Horner’s Syndrome - Horner’s Syndrome is caused by a stroke or other injury that has damaged the nerves on one side of the face. It could make one pupil look larger than the other, affecting the appearance of the eye color. It can also cause iris depigmentation.

  • 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.

Using Cosmetics to Change Eye Color

If you want to change your own eye color through cosmetic surgery, you're out of luck. 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 eyecarecenter 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 eyecarecenter location near you today for more information or to schedule an eye exam.