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November 4, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: Can a person's eye color change as they age?


I know it can because mine has.

When I was a boy my eyes were brown.


Now they are green.

I noticed the change when I was in medical school and wondered how such a thing could happen.

Over the years I've asked many ophthalmologists about it and they've all said I must be remembering incorrectly because eye color doesn't change over time.

But guess what?

They were wrong and I am not crazy.

Anahad O'Connor, in his excellent "Really?" feature, in the October 25 New York Times, addressed the question and reported that "in a small percentage of adults, eye color can naturally become either noticeably darker or lighter with age."

Here's his column.

    The Claim: Eye Color Can Change as We Age

    THE FACTS It can bend light, bring the world into focus, and next to the human brain may be our most complicated organ.

    But for many people the most intriguing feature of the human eye is simply its color.

    Can it really change for no apparent reason?

    In most people, the answer is no.

    Eye color fully matures in infancy and remains the same for life.

    But in a small percentage of adults, eye color can naturally become either noticeably darker or lighter with age.

    What determines eye color is the pigment melanin.

    Eyes that have a lot of it in the connective tissue at the front of the iris, called the stroma, are darker, while those that have less tend to be lighter.

    The levels of melanin generally remain the same throughout life, but a few things can change them permanently.

    The first is a handful of ocular diseases like pigmentary glaucoma.

    Another is a condition called heterochromia, or multicolored eyes, which affects about 1 percent of the population and is often caused by traumatic injuries. An example of this can be seen in the rock star David Bowie, who attributes his contrasting eye colors, hazel and light blue, to a blow to the face as a child.

    The third cause appears to be genetics. A study in 1997, for example, looked at thousands of twins and found that 10 percent to 15 percent of the subjects had gradual changes in eye color throughout adolescence and adulthood, which occurred at nearly identical rates in identical twins.


    THE BOTTOM LINE Eyes can change color in some people because of genetics or injury.

November 4, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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my eye color changes all the time day to day. people love it about my eyes. naturlly it was supposed to be blue. but as time it turned brown, green, blue. now i am 13 and it changes all over the place. sometimes a hint of gold near the pupile and no i am not a twilight fan so i am not saying that cause i am a "vamp" i am a harry potters girl through and through. i know some people wont belive this because usually no one belives my eyes change colour untill they meet me. morining could be blue. afetrnoon could be green. i dont even know when the change?

Posted by: Maranda | Dec 23, 2009 2:19:59 AM

Hello, I've been looking for something to figure out what's been going on w/ my eyes for years & just stumbled on this... I'm 22 years-old, Asian & was born w/ almost black eyes. Growing up, they were dark brown. A few years ago, people commented on how 'red' they were. They were a rich mahogany. Now they're a little more golden & the ring of gray around my eyes are becoming more noticeable, moving inwards. My cholestrol level's fine, don't have any disease that can be related to this...except I'm allergic to the sun. But my relatives (other than my mom, who has a less severe type of sun allergy), have blue rings. None of my ancestors were of another race, as far as I know, and I know quite a lot about my family's history, lol. @ first, I freaked out when my eyes were no longer dark brown, but I figure, they're probably going to turn gray w/in my lifetime, @ this rate. It's probably due to less melanin, as I cannot handle sunlight. I have some (tiny) cherry angiomas too. But at least I don't have gray hairs. :T

Posted by: Hannah | Aug 27, 2009 4:29:52 AM

I have been researching the internet because I had experienced this phenomenon myself and wanted an answer, can't seem to find a real one. My Father has Hazel/Blue Eyes and my Mother had Green Eyes, I have 5 brothers and sisters ranging from 1 Green, 1 Hazel, 2 Blue, 1 Brown. I am the lucky one who had blue until I was 10 or 11 and then all of a sudden they were Green. I think there has to be something to it, I guess I will have to wait for Science to find out.

Posted by: Molly | Jun 2, 2009 8:34:23 PM

My eyes are black-brown and I'm adopted from Thailand. I'm 32 y.o. My husband's white Danish and has blue eyes. Well, maybe they're grey-blue. My boys were all born with brown/black eyes like me. Then they turned dark brown within the first year. The two oldest turned to a lighter shade of dark brown. They're now mostly a medium brown relative to my eyes but most Danes would probably say they have dark brown eyes. The oldest one has dark hazel eyes and in direct light you can see some gold and green around the outer edge. In direct light, my middle son's look more ambery/honey. This change had happened by the age of 3 in both of the oldest boys. The youngest eye's are only going from very dark brown to a medium/dark brown here at 5 y.o. and his eyes are more obviously honey on a sunny day. Mine look the same as when I was a kid; Brown/black and I need very direct light for the pupils to be obvious and the eyes to actually appear brown beyond any doubt. I like that my eyes are so dark because I love to experiment with eye make-up and black/brown eyes suit any colors.

Posted by: Jo | Apr 23, 2009 4:05:52 PM

Hi, I've read this article and I noticed that most of u had black or dark brown eyes. So I suppose that dark brown/black eyes change over the years around the 20s years old of age?

Posted by: Me | Apr 15, 2009 10:14:06 PM

I, too, was born with (at least, from what I recall) rather darkish brown eyes (I'm about 1/3 Asian and 2/3 Caucasian [Western Europe] -- my mother has grey eyes, father's were brown). Lately (in my adult life) people have started commenting on my "eye color" [referring to my "green eyes"?!] so I recently checked the mirror carefully. There is, indeed, a definite greyish/blue tinge around the outer edge and the color's spreading! It's even more noticeable when I wear my (CLEAR) contacts as the light reflects off the contacts as well. I just had my eyes checked to renew my contacts Rx and no evidence of any type of disease; I asked my doctor what he considered my eye color to be -- he said "hazel brown"(?)! So I see that this is possible and I'm really not going bonkers, nor do I have a faulty memory! I'm assuming that for me, it's probably genetics!(??) Hmmm, interesting....

Posted by: Myrna | Apr 12, 2009 3:18:30 PM

I was born with dark brown eyes. In teenage years they developed a gray/blue on the rim. I am East African. Now in my mid 20s the colour's changed to a lighter brown and the gray/blue's spreading.

Posted by: L | Apr 11, 2009 1:28:32 AM


my eyes were a hazel colour when i was a kid i was always told they were hazel but now they're a dark green colour and from a distance people say they look brown maybe it's because they're dark green but yeah some days they'll look a lighter green others they'll look hazel and others brown so you definately aren't mad!!!

Posted by: Anna | Mar 25, 2009 6:57:35 PM

I was born with beautiful big brown eyes. My eyes were so dark that they looked
black. Through the years I have noticed that my eye color has gotten lighter.
Now my eyes are light brown almost hazel. So you are right eye color does change.

Posted by: Mandi | Mar 9, 2009 1:32:12 PM

My eyes are always brown but changes by shades as to darker or lighter brown

Posted by: Sammy | Mar 8, 2009 5:10:24 PM

Hey i was born with blue pretty bright eyes well when I was 7 or 8 one of my eyes changed to green so now I have one blue eye and one green eye and your not crazy!!! good luck

Posted by: somone weird | Feb 19, 2009 12:04:47 PM

i was born with dark brown basically black eyes, i am 20 now and within the last few months i have noticed that my eyes are now light/medium brown, i hope they continue to get even lighter :)

Posted by: brit | Jan 18, 2009 7:48:22 PM

Hey joe, you just gave me hope. I have very dark brown eyes and the other day, my friend came up to me and asked me if I was wearing contacts! And I checked them and they were a bit lighter than usual, like chesnut. I hope it keeps going! :D

Posted by: chris | Jan 11, 2009 4:48:59 AM

cool,I'm glad that I'm not the only one..
when I was younger I had ocean blue.. then darker blue.. then they became grey blue.. then grey green.. and now still grey green.. but green is more intesive.. I wonder what will be the next change..
Atleast,as others said,I'm happy that I'm not crazy!

Posted by: eve | Jan 5, 2009 12:38:47 PM

my eyes were ocean blue when i was born.now im 13 and they change very often like within minutes depending on my mood or feelings
i don't know why but i think it is cool

Posted by: lauren | Jan 4, 2009 3:57:14 PM

so glad to hear this happening to others - I'm 40 and one of my friends told me a few months ago that I had blue eyes - thought she was crazy because my eyes have always been green. Looked in the mirror - they're mostly blue. Even my sister who thought I was nuts when I told her admits that they're blue. Pretty cool actually.

Posted by: Patty | Jan 3, 2009 11:24:31 PM

Similar experience here, all my childhood I had very light brown eyes, now that I'm in my mid thirties the outer rim has gradually been shifting to green, it's most noticeable when I'm
outdoors with plenty of sunlight, the iris would seem to reflect a greenish shade instead of light brown, the longer I stay under the sun the greener they look at the end of the day.

When I'm indoors sometimes people confuse the shade with very light brown / green / grey, just as if the iris had a "muddy water" color.

People I have not seen in years have asked me if I'm wearing color contacts because they remember me
with brown eyes, not green eyes.

The same shift has happened to my older sister who is in her forties.

I'm latin.

Posted by: JL | Dec 22, 2008 12:22:16 AM

as a kid i had blue eyes, im in my early 40's and my eyes for the most part are a deep green with a bit of brown and blue mixed in. what i don't understand is that sometimes my eyes look as if they are the lightest shade of blue "gray". i do not think the color shift in my eyes are due to emotional factors but it seems that the color of my eyes is not constant. what could be the cause of noticable color shifts in my eyes.

Posted by: paul | Nov 15, 2008 12:22:04 PM

When I was younger, I was thougt it was natural for Black people to have blue or gray eyes because my grandfather's eyes were bright blue and his brother's were gray. However, they were both born with brown eyes. Now that I am older, my eyes are changing from brown to a grayish-blue. I went to the optometrist, who was concerned enough to send me to a specialist for a glaucoma test. The results showed that my vision is fine, and that I don't have glaucoma or any other eye disease. The specialist told me that it was not uncommon for Blacks, whose brown eyes have a lot of melanin, to slow or stop the production of melanin as they get older. Presently, my eyes are predominantly brown with sections that have already turned a bluish color. I have noticed all my life that some older blacks have blue or gray eyes. Now I understand why. Blue eyes are the color they are due to an absence of pigment. As for me, my eye color change is genetic and appears to skip generations. Neither my mother or any of her siblings have eye color that is any different from what they were born with.

Posted by: Rose | Nov 7, 2008 11:16:56 PM

My eyes go from a bright blue to green. They seem to be fading with age though.

Posted by: Blue Frost | Oct 28, 2008 6:20:35 AM

Funniest thing but my eyes usedta be real clear and all and now after five or six Cosmopolitans they start gettin pink and then when I switch over to martinis they get reall red like. Red as fire, don't matter if I use Gray Goose or Tankerrays. Hunh, maybe I ort to switch to Wild Turkeys, my little baby neice thoaught I was the devil the other day and I didn't have but two fingers of Gilbys.

Posted by: Flolichnaya | Oct 19, 2008 8:16:12 PM

I was born with bright blue eyes and over the years they gradually changed to a duller blue, then to gray blue and now at the age of thirty, they are a gray with green, blue, and gold flecks. I really like the color, but my mom said they'll probably eventually turn green as hers did when she was in her thirties. I guess it's genetic. Her green eyes are very pretty, iridescent-like, so I don't mind if they keep changing. :-) For those of you who don't have a genetic tendency for eye color change; however, you may want to consider seeing a doctor because eye color change is often linked to various eye diseases (sorry, not trying to scare you!).

Posted by: Tara Smith | Oct 19, 2008 7:00:49 PM

When I was born I had dark brown eyes. They weren't practically black like my asian friend, but they were pretty dark. I'm 11 now and over the past few days I've noticed that my eyes are appearing to become hazel. In the past three days, I would wake up, look in the mirror, and my eye color would appear to be lighter. I looked closer at my eyes and saw that they have turned into a light honey-ish brown with very dark green around the edges. My eyes are also rimmed with a grayish-blue, which kinda makes sense considering my mom had bluish-greenish eyes. I'm kinda hoping to get her eyes, but I kinda wish that my eyes would stay the same. Its a very nice warm color now.

Posted by: Nicky | Oct 7, 2008 6:09:01 PM

My eyes are dark brown ,being middle eastern and all, but recently i noticed these yellowish rings going around the iris , they used to be unnoticeable , but now they're getting wider and wider, now when people are talking to me face to face , they can't help but comment , is it possible that my eyes are changing color?

plz if u know anything , e-mail me! :3

Posted by: Arabic | Sep 1, 2008 8:21:02 AM

my eyes have always been so brown they appear black from a distance...now they are changing with a grey-blue around the edges and blue is merging into the brown...I was quite concerned and went to the eye doc and my doctors had never seen this, they were fresh out of school so I am making an appointment with doc's @ Duke, my eye doc said it could be problems with my colestrol...not sure of that as well...I'm making an appointment now to see my med doc.

Posted by: gbarber | Aug 13, 2008 1:48:10 PM

My eyes are brown but actually people noticed that the outer edges are turning gray...so i looked in the mirror today and I got so scare...I hope im not going blind...any ideas anybody???

Posted by: Ruben from MN | Jul 31, 2008 2:52:23 AM

When I was little my eyes were dark brown and as I moved into my twenties, I noticed that the brown colour was moving in towards the pupil and I noticed a murky green towards the outer rim of the eye. Now, much later my eyes only have a very little light brown around the pupil with a clearer lighter green towards the rim and then a blue/grey rim around the outside. My father's eyes were hazel and my mother's were a pale blue. Eye colour is not controlled by only two forms of a gene, consequently, there are wide ranges of eye colour that occur. What is interesting is that there seems to be different genes exhibiting greater influences as a person ages and that the most common occurrence seems to be in a change from brown to green.

Posted by: marion Thomas | Jul 17, 2008 1:25:12 PM

i was born with green eyes but after a year they became dark brown so everybody thought they going stay like that until i turn 16 my friend told what color are your eyes and i was like dark brown she was like look at the mirror i was surprise they look green brown like hazel it was so weird end then in the dark they look brown but in sunlight or depends what im wearing or eye shadow they change my fathers mom has blue green eyes and his dad has dark brown eyes and my moms side has brown eyes but her grandmother had green eyes so i dont know its weird

Posted by: sally | Jul 15, 2008 4:57:39 PM

I am so glad I found this site. I have spent a lot of time looking at my eyes and the eyes of the people around me. I know they change but something disturbing just happened.

I grew up with deep brown eyes... in my teens they developed yellow flecks and then green.

By my late teens they were a cross between green and amber and throughout my twenties they have become progressively more green.

Today I was washing my hands in the restroom and I looked at my eyes... I gasped. The entire outer rim of my eyes is grey blue and the inside is completely green. I wear contacts so I took one out just to see. Sure enough I am 26 years old and my eyes are turning blue!

Posted by: Nikki | Jul 9, 2008 9:36:56 AM

I have just noticed that my eyes are turning grey. I was born with hazel eyes. Would it be because I am diabetic (13 years)?

Posted by: paul | Jul 1, 2008 2:45:02 PM

Thought this would be a good place to share that i've noticed an eye color change in my Husband.When we started dating he had green eyes.(they looked almost hazel)I just noticed yesterday,after 6-7 years he now has blue eyes.No trace of the green.He's 24 and has worked an overnight wherehouse job for about a year,now.Over this time he started to complain of how much the lights were hurting his eyes. I didn't think about it much at the time,but blue eyes ARE more sensitive to light than other eye colors.(of courseI never checked his eye color,then)His eyes must have been changing color during that time.I'd never heard of a complete eye color change happening to anyone before.

I assumed every eye color just changed lighter and darker on a daily basis.Mine sometimes change with my mood.Blue to grey.

Posted by: Michelle | Jun 26, 2008 2:01:21 AM

My eyes have always been a medium brown just recently I noticed the outer edges are turning gray. Does anyone else have this?

Posted by: Michelle | Jun 18, 2008 8:44:22 PM

Hi, I have a similiar situation to that of Nitha's family; I was born with blue eyes (I believe) but most frequently now my eyes are green. But day to day they can change from dark green to dark grey, or blue, or brown... pretty much any colour and any colour combination can appear. It can even be green, but with golden brown around my iris, and a grey-ish dark blue ring around the edge... how does that even happen??? my mom used to say they would change according to the weather, but thats just not it, they seem to change completely at random. Unfortunately I can't even compare to biological relatives as I'm adopted. But at least it's nice to know someone has a similar situation

Posted by: amanda | Jun 16, 2008 9:20:06 AM

In my Bio class I learned that all baby's are born with blue eyes and the color changes as the baby's eyes are exposed to light, and due to genetics. I believe that eye color change is due to a magnatude of things such as our diet, light exposure, genetics and a great deal of other scientific things.

Posted by: Brittany | Jun 9, 2008 1:23:28 AM

I was born with black eyes..so black you couldn't make out the pupils up close. Then a few years ago, they became brown-black. About 2 years ago, they started to change to light brown. Now people tell me my eye color is light brown, or dark hazel, or light greenish-brown, or amber. I'm very confused what to call my eye color these days..Indoors they look dark brown. Outside they look "chestnut" as my Mother calls it. With strong direct sunlight or a flashlight, they look yellowish-amber, or amber with a slight hint of green. I have definately lost a lot of the "warm" tones in my eye color, and that's why I think they appear to be a little greenish in some people's eyes. I just call my eye color light brown for sake of simplicity, but throughout the day lately, they will shift at least a couple times a day under the same lighting, from dark brown to light brown. I am over 90% Asian if you are curious, the mix coming from my Mother's side..just found this out 3 weeks ago. My Mother's eye color is a light brown/amber color with silver, yellow, and light green flecks, Dang, I'm jealous! Ha Ha Ha.:)

Posted by: Josefeline | Jun 2, 2008 5:50:21 PM

My son is now 16 when he's eyes have always been a light brown but in the past few months we have noticed a lot of green flakes they seem to be getting greener everyday, i have dark brown eyes and his biological father has green

Posted by: Cheryl | May 23, 2008 11:35:16 PM

I was thinking about this earlier today because I had nothing better to do. When I was a kid my eyes are black brown and now it has gone to a normal dark warm brown. It's nothing too obvious but it is something because I read somewhere that, usually Asian eyes doesn't change colour (except for aging and i'm going to be 22 this year and aging is too early for me). I have also noticed this in my friends, two of them had dark brown eyes and after a while their eyes changed. Now one of them has hazel eyes and the other has brown eyes, though both of them wear contact lenses, which brings me to my other question, does contact lenses play a part in eye colour change?

Posted by: Sher | May 23, 2008 6:42:36 AM

My eyes are brown - but they change from light brown to a dark almost black brown if I am in a good mood. If they are light brown, I am sick.

Posted by: Wen | Mar 16, 2008 7:57:17 PM

Hey, my mom has green eyes and my dad has hazel/amber eyes. When i was about 12 or 13 i had slight light brown eyes, when i grew a bit older:16 I can see a change in my eyes, its as if they are becoming "greener".

Posted by: Alexandre | Mar 13, 2008 7:36:14 PM

My mother and all of her 12 siblings had bright blue eyes. Most of all of their children and grandchildren have blue eyes. my father has greenish eyes with flickers of gold. Me and my 2 have my fathers eye color- which i have always called hazel. My brother has blue eyes. But, sometimes people comment to me and 1 of my sisters on my "blue" eyes. I insist my eyes are not blue.Others will insist they are. My husbands eyes were an off color of green/grey/blue. My duaghters eyes are most often blue, sometimes bight, sometimes with a tone of grey or green. She usually lists her eye color as blue. I put green sometimes, other times hazel. But, do our eyes actually change colors? Would hazel be my correct eye color?

Posted by: peggy | Jan 15, 2008 7:34:34 PM

I was born with blue eyes that seemed to change based on their surroundings, but they are now almost consistently green. It's good to know that other people have the same experience.

Posted by: Nitha | Jan 13, 2008 12:00:43 PM

I forgot to mention that I have actually considered my eyes to be copper in color because the hazel-brown appearance often resembles a slightly faded copper penny. I've also been told that this eye color is known as "whiskey". That's cool, whiskey eyes.

Posted by: chris | Nov 4, 2007 11:17:06 PM

I'm so glad I found this website. I thought I was just crazy. When I was a young child, my eyes were a moderate brown. 30 some years later, my eyes are significantly lighter in appearance and have leaned more toward hazel. I still list them as brown on my driver's license because they appear brown from a distance, but up close, they have a hazel-brown appearance. My mother has dark brown eyes, and my father had hazel eyes. I figured it must be his orange, yellow and green flecks chiming in as I get older. I think it's cool actually. I just wonder what they will look like 30 years from now. I wouldn't expect them to be green or even blue, but just possibly they may become true hazel in color.

Posted by: Chris | Nov 4, 2007 11:12:51 PM

my eye color changes from day to day, but so does my dad's
one day i wake up with eyes that are really dark blue,
but by the end of the day my eye color is light blue, or light blue with a dark ring on the edge
how is that possible?

Posted by: mel | Sep 24, 2007 8:42:46 AM

i was born with dark brown eyes then they went hazel as i got older and now im 21 an they are going green,i dont think it can be the sun as i try an avoid it cos i burn an when i do go in the sun i wear sunglasses.

Posted by: sammie | Mar 17, 2007 7:29:06 PM

I was born with a light blue-green eyes. I am 13, and a couple of months ago they started chnging. now they are a light gray, with green near the iris.

Posted by: laura straub | Sep 24, 2006 9:36:50 PM

can sunlight permanently change eye color

Posted by: anthony | Sep 8, 2006 10:27:05 AM

i was born with clear blue eyes and they stayed that color until i was in about third grade. they've been getting darker ever since. right now theyre a really dark green on the edge of the iris and a grayish turquiose color near the pupil.

i tan quickly. i wonder if maybe i've just stared at the sun too much and my eyes "tanned." i wonder if they'll be brown before i die.

Posted by: kristen | Aug 10, 2006 1:20:53 PM

In both my family (Irish) and my husband's family (Norwegian and Swedish)about a third of the blue-eyed go green in midlife.

I am one of 63 grandchildren and my mother-in-law is one of 12 children. So, we have a rather large and handy population sample.

I now have green-gold flecks that weren't there in my twenties.

Posted by: Mb | Jul 5, 2006 2:44:28 PM

Thanks for sharing that info. I was born with brown eyes. My mother has green eyes and my father has brown eyes. But the older I get, my eye color has been changing more and more to green. It has been more and more noticeably green as of lately. People kept telling me that a person's eye color cannot change. So now I've done my own research, and I have found that indeed it can.

Posted by: Dawn | Jul 5, 2006 12:03:40 PM

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