Can your eyes change color?

Have you ever noticed your eye color seems to change when wearing a certain color? Or maybe you've been told that your eyes can change color with your mood. Is this possible, or are your eye colors permanent?

When it comes to eye color, most people have no choice but to accept what they’re born with. Many eye color "changes" are just tricks of the light, and if your eye color does change, it's typically very minor. If you notice a significant change in eye color, it 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.

What Influences Your 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 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 have produce more melanin, while those with blue or green eyes produce less.

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.

Your parents' eye colors also play a part in what eye color you have. It’s common to see two parents with blue eyes having children that also have 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 veer away 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 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.

Minor Changes Are Common

There is a possibility of minor changes in eye color as an adult. For example, long-term sun exposure may cause your eyes to darken slightly, while a small percentage of Caucasian people's eyes lighten as they age. For the most part, though, your eye color will not actually change, and significant changes 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. After an any eye injury, it’s important to seek help to ensure no long-term damage was caused

  • Lisch Nodules - Appearing as small brown bumps, lisch nodules grow on the top part of the iris. Often caused by the condition neurofibromatosis, these do not usually cause vision loss. 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 - Often caused by a stroke or other injury that damaged the nerves on one side of the face, Horner’s syndrome is rare condition that affects the pupil or iris. 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. This creates spots on the iris that affect eye color. ICE syndrome can sometimes lead to glaucoma.

Cosmetic Changes

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 The EyeDoctors Optometrists 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 The EyeDoctors Optometrists location near you today for more information or to schedule an eye exam.