Switching up your eye color opens a whole world of stylish new possibilities. With the flick of, say, a hazel-colored contact lens, you get to try out new eye shadow colors to make brown eyes pop, add a little mystery to your look and, according to some studies, maybe even gain some more confidence. But what if your eye color changed without the use of lenses?
Most people assume that eye color doesn’t change once you hit a certain age—around the age of one, though doctors note it can be up to age three. Before this, many babies experience change in their eye color, especially if they are of European descent. This is because many Caucasian babies are born with blue or gray eyes, though this will often change over the first few months of the baby’s life. Asian, Hispanic and African American babies are typically born with darker eyes, which remain this color. In order to understand this, it’s important to first note that eye color is caused by melanin. This is the same thing responsible for skin and hair color. Asian, Hispanic, and African Americans tend to have more melanin, or pigment, in these features (skin, hair and eyes). The more melanin, the darker the color. Caucasian people have a varying amount of melanin, which accounts for the greater diversity in eye color, as well as skin and hair color. The reason that babies’ eyes tend to change color over time is that as they get older (and we’re typically only talking a few months here), more melanin develops, thus changing the color of their eyes.
While a change in eye color is much more typical in babies, it can also happen over the course of a person’s life, through adulthood. In fact, it can even happen several times! There are many different reasons why this happens. Some are totally normal and fine (a.k.a. no cause for concern!), others can be caused by a medical condition or even certain medications. If a change is really drastic, then it’s a good idea to be seen by a physician so he or she can evaluate and make sure nothing is wrong.
Just like with babies, it is more common for Caucasian adults to experience change in eye color over their lifetime, though it’s still fairly rare. It’s estimated that about 10 to 15 percent will actually undergo a change in eye color. Similar to infants, this is due to a change in the amount of pigment. Although, with babies it tends to increase; but when color change happens to adults, it’s typically due to a decrease in pigment (or melanin) and results in a lighter eye color. Although for some, eyes can darken due to an increase in melanin, even as an adult. The change tends to be gradual over time, so that a person doesn’t wake up one day with a dramatically different eye color. Hazel and amber color eyes have the greatest chance of changing color over time.
If there is a very obvious and drastic change in eye color—either in one eye or both, it could be a sign of several diseases, such as Fuchs heterochromic iridocyclitis (FHI), Horner’s syndrome, or pigmentary glaucoma. FHI is a condition in which the front of the eye becomes inflamed, causing a change in the color of the iris. This may only affect one eye, resulting in two different color eyes. Horner’s syndrome is a disruption in the third cranial nerve. This usually causes one eye to become lighter than the other. Pigmentary glaucoma causes a change in eye color because pigment becomes loose and essentially is shifted around the eye. Like the other diseases described above, it usually results in one eye being lighter than the other. Some glaucoma medications also may cause eyes to change color. When this happens, eyes usually become darker. The change in eye color can be permanent, even after the person stops taking the medication.
Of course, you don’t have to spend time wishing for a natural increase or decrease in melanin to change the colors of your eyes. Color contacts, like FreshLook Colors or Air Optix Colors, are a great way to change the color of your eyes on a daily basis. The best part of it is you aren’t limited to a single change. You can be blue-eyed one day, green the next, and dark brown after that!