Can your eyes change color?

Have you noticed that when wearing a certain color your eyes pop or seemingly shift to a slightly different shade? Or perhaps you've heard that your eyes can change color depending on your mood? Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand what influences your eye color.

Eye color is usually unchangeable, but your eye color can appear to shift lighter or darker due to tricks of the light. If you notice a significant change in eye color, it could indicate an eye injury or another eye problem.

Learn what makes your eye color so unique and how it can change with the eye care professionals at Nationwide Vision.

How Genetics Influence Your Eye Color

Genetics play a large part in what eye color you might have. Parents who have blue eyes will typically have children with blue eyes. If the parents have different eye colors, then it’s harder to determine the child’s eye color.

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 of melanocytes, which are cells in the body that secrete the pigment melanin, continue for about six months after birth.

The level of melanin in your body is determined by your genetics. Melanin is what determines your eye, hair, and even skin color. The amount of melanin in your irises, and thus your eye color, is determined by your genes.

Melanin Levels and Iris Color

The level of melanin in a person’s body influences the color of their iris. The iris is the circular area around your pupil that helps control how much light enters your eyes.

Melanin concentrates in the iris, so the more melanin you have in your eyes, the darker your eyes will be. So, people with brown eyes produce more melanin, while those with blue or green eyes produce less.

Normal Changes in Eye Color

It is possible for an adult to experience minor changes in eye color. For example, long-term sun exposure may cause your eyes to darken slightly. A small percentage of Caucasian people's eyes lighten as they age. For the most part, your eye color will not actually change, and significant changes may be a sign of a larger problem.

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.

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 Nationwide Vision 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 Nationwide Vision location near you today for more information or to schedule an eye exam.