Can eye color affect your vision?

 

Courtesy of Felix Leupold on Flickr

Courtesy of Felix Leupold on Flickr

During my 20+ years of providing clinical care, my patients have asked me a variety of questions regarding their eyes. One of the inquiries that has come up recently is, “I heard that having different eye colors can affect your vision…is that true?”

Well, there certainly has been much written about, debated over, and researched on this very topic. We know that the iris is what gives a person their eye color. There are numerous eye colors and variations thereof. They span from the lightest of blue, to green, to a mixture of hazel, to the darkest of brown, and even violet like that of the late Elizabeth Taylor. Most of us would agree that some of us are more attracted to one eye color over another, so maybe having a particular eye color confers some advantages.

From a vision clarity standpoint, people with varying shades of blue eyes to brown eyes can see equally well. With that said, there are some plusses and minuses in possessing a particular eye color. What is known from an “evidence based” perspective is that individuals with light eyes (blue) tend to be more light sensitive. I often impart this analogy to my patients. If we think of the colored iris as a window covering, more light will be allowed to come through a window to light up a room with a light blue curtain as compared to an opaque brown one. So much the same occurs with a light colored iris. They just have less pigment to block out or reflect back the light. In fact, this may be one of the reasons why an individual with light eyes may be more at risk for developing macular degeneration. Recommendation have been made for patients with light eyes to wear UV protective eyewear, UV coated contact lenses, or even opaque colored contact lenses.

It is also a little known fact that dark eye colors (brown) can withstand high glare situations better than light eyes. Dark eyes have the ability to absorb more light and allow less light to get reflect. My patients with dark eyes are not as bothered by driving at night in the midst of annoying glare from headlights of other cars.

So to circle back to the question, “I heard that having different eye colors can affect your vision…is that true?”

It can be answered with a “YES,” but honestly, the difference is so ever subtle.

~ Judy Tong OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

Eye color – Did you know?

1) How is eye color determined?

   Eye color is determined by two distinct factors.

  • The pigmentation of the eye’s iris – The iris is a muscle and the colored part of the eye. The amount of melanin present determines eye color.
  •  The scattering of light in the stroma of the iris – Rayleigh scattering is a similar phenomenon that accounts for the blueness of the sky. Blue and green pigments are not present in the iris of humans or ocular fluid.

2) Does eye color change with age?

Photo courtesy of Javier Manso on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Javier Manso on Flickr

  • Yes. Most babies with European ancestry have light-colored eyes before the age of one. As a child grows, melanocytes produce melanin. Melanocytes are cells found within the iris of human eyes. Most eye color changes occur when the child is around one year old, however it can happen up to three years of age.
  • Eye color (lightening or darkening) may change with age. This occurs in 10 to 15 percent of the population. However, if your eye color changes dramatically as an adult, it is important to schedule an examination with your eye doctor. Eye color changes may indicate certain diseases, such as Fuch’s heterochromic iridocyclitis, Horner’s syndrome or pigmentary glaucoma.

 3) Is it possible to see emotions such as anger or love in the eyes?

Yes. Certain emotions can change both the pupil size and the iris color. Pupil size gets larger in dimmer lighting and smaller in brighter lighting. When pupil size changes, pigment in the iris compress or spread apart, which can change the eye color.

4) What makes eyes green?

The color of green eyes is not a result of iris pigmentation. Green eyes are due to a combination of amber or light brown pigmentation of the stroma. There is a low or moderate concentration of melanin. The green appearance is due to the Rayleigh scattering of reflected light.

5) What can I do to change my eye color?

Color contact lenses are available if you want to change your eye color. There are even colored contact lenses with patterns for occasions such as Halloween. Since contact lenses are medical devices, visit your doctor of optometry for a contact lens fitting.

~Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org