What Are the Odds of Having Different-Colored Eyes?


What do Jane Seymour, Kate Bosworth, Mila Kunis, and Keifer Sutherland have in common? Their eyes have different hues, a medical condition known as heterochromia. This rare genetic variation affects only a small percentage of the population, making it a highly coveted trait among Hollywood stars. 

But what are the odds of having different-colored eyes? Is it just a matter of luck, or is there more to it than meets the eye? In this article, we’ll delve into the science of eye color genetics and explore the causes of heterochromia, including different types and ways to identify them. We’ll also discuss the statistics behind this rare condition and its influence on genetics. 

From Hollywood celebrities to everyday people, heterochromia is a fascinating phenomenon that demands to be explored. So, let’s take a closer look at what causes two different-colored eyes and the odds of having this unique trait.

Overview of Eye Color Genetics 

Eye color is a complex genetic trait that is determined by multiple genes. The color of the eyes depends on the amount and type of pigments in the front layers of the iris, which is the colored part of the eye. The two main types of pigments that contribute to eye color are melanin and lipochrome. Melanin is responsible for the brown and black colors, while lipochrome produces the green, yellow, and orange colors of the eyes. [1] The amount of melanin and lipochrome in the iris determines the eye color. The genetics of eye color are not fully understood, but it is known that multiple genes, including HERC2, SLC24A4, and OCA2 play a role in eye color determination.

Inheritance of Eye Color 

Eye color inheritance follows a complex pattern that is not yet fully understood. However, it is generally believed that eye color is inherited in a polygenic manner, meaning that multiple genes are involved in determining the color of the eyes. Additionally, the inheritance of eye color is also influenced by environmental factors, such as sunlight exposure, which can affect the amount of melanin in the iris.

The inheritance of eye color is also influenced by the ethnicity of an individual. For example, people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent generally have darker eye colors, while people of European descent have a wider range of eye colors, including blue, green, and gray.

Overview of Two Different Colored Eyes 

Two different-colored eyes (aka. heterochromia) is a rare condition that occurs in less than 1% of the population. [2] Heterochromia can be present at birth, or it can develop later in life due to disease or injury.

While the condition is not very common, heterochromia is not considered a medical condition unless it is a result of an underlying disease or injury. However, it can sometimes be a cause of concern, especially if it develops later in life. 

Causes of Two Different Eye Colors

Causes of Two Different Eye Colors

To better understand two different eye colors condition, it’s important to know its different causes. Let’s delve into more details below.

Main Cause: Heterochromia

Heterochromia is the leading cause of two-colored eyes. But what exactly is heterochromia? Here’s. a complete breakdown:

What is it?

Heterochromia is a condition where an individual has two different colored eyes or two different colors within the same iris. [3] This condition is relatively rare and can occur in both humans and animals. While it is generally harmless, it can be an indicator of underlying medical conditions in some cases. 


Heterochromia is typically caused by an excess or lack of melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes. If one eye has more melanin than the other, it will appear darker. Additionally, heterochromia can be inherited genetically or develop spontaneously. Some common causes of heterochromia include genetics, injury, inflammation, or underlying medical conditions like Horner’s syndrome, and Waardenburg syndrome. 

Different types of heterchromia 

There are three types of heterochromia: complete, central, and sectoral. Complete heterochromia occurs when each iris is a different color, whereas central heterochromia is when the iris has different colors in the center and the outside. [4] Sectoral heterochromia is when the iris has two different colors in the same iris but in different areas. 

How do you identify heterochromia?

Heterochromia can be identified by a difference in eye color between the left and right eye, or between different regions of the same iris. The condition can be present at birth or can develop later in life.

Overall, heterochromia is a fascinating and relatively rare condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and underlying medical conditions. While it is typically harmless, it is important to identify the underlying cause and monitor any changes in eye color to ensure the health and well-being of the individual.

Other Causes

In addition to heterochromia, there are other conditions like Horner’s Syndrome that can cause two different eye colors. [5] These conditions affect the development of pigmentation or blood vessels in the eyes.

Horner’s Syndrome 

Horner’s syndrome is a rare condition that can affect one side of the face and cause one eye to be a different color. This occurs when the nerves that run from the brain to the face and eyes are damaged. The affected eye may appear to have less pigmentation, making it lighter in color. Other symptoms of Horner’s syndrome include drooping of the eyelid, smaller pupil size, and decreased sweating on one side of the face.

Waardenburg Syndrome 

Waardenburg syndrome is a rare genetic condition that can cause two different colored eyes, as well as other abnormalities such as hearing loss and changes in skin pigmentation. This syndrome affects the development of cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes. People with Waardenburg syndrome may have one blue eye and one brown eye, or different shades of blue or green in each eye.

Sturge-Weber Syndrome 

Sturge-Weber syndrome is another condition that impacts the development of blood vessels in a person’s brain and face. A port-wine stain birthmark on the face is a key symptom of this condition. In some cases, Sturge-Weber syndrome can cause one eye to be a different color than the other, as well as other eye abnormalities such as glaucoma or vision loss.

Developing Heterochromia as an Adult 

Ukrainian woman having heterochromia

Heterochromia is usually present from birth and is considered a harmless genetic variation. However, in some cases, it can develop later in life as a result of an underlying medical condition.

Medical Conditions 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, developing heterochromia as an adult can be a sign of certain medical conditions. [6] For example, it can be associated with eye injuries, tumors, inflammation, or nerve damage. In rare cases, it can also be a symptom of an underlying systemic disease such as Horner’s syndrome, which affects the nervous system, or pigment dispersion syndrome, which can lead to glaucoma.

If you notice a sudden change in the color of your eyes, it’s important to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the change. Your eye doctor can perform a comprehensive eye exam to evaluate the health of your eyes and help determine the underlying cause of the heterochromia. Early diagnosis and treatment of any underlying medical conditions can help prevent further complications and preserve your vision.

Discussion of two different colored eyes in society

Two different colored eyes is a unique and intriguing phenomenon that has captured the attention of society for generations. Heterochromia is the medical term for this condition, and it refers to the presence of different colored irises. This condition is fascinating because it can be caused by various factors, such as genetics, medical conditions, and even trauma. While it may be a rare occurrence, being born with or developing two different colored eyes has become a topic of interest for many individuals, and it has even made its way into popular culture.

Statistics of Heterochromia

Heterochromia is a condition in which a person has two different colored eyes. It is a relatively rare condition, with only around 11 in every 1,000 people having it. There are two main types of heterochromia: complete heterochromia, in which one eye is a completely different color from the other, and partial heterochromia, in which only a part of one eye is a different color from the rest of the iris.

According to a report by Health Digest, the prevalence of heterochromia varies by race and ethnicity. Caucasians and people of European descent have the highest incidence of heterochromia, with about 20% of people with this condition belonging to this group. In contrast, Asians have the lowest incidence, with only about 1% of people in this group having heterochromia. The condition is also more common in women than men. [7]

Heterochromia can occur in both humans and animals. In some animal species, it is a common occurrence, and it can even be used to identify certain breeds of cats and dogs. Heterochromia can also be acquired as a result of injury or illness, but in most cases, it is a genetic condition that is inherited from a person’s parents.

Influence of Genetics on Odds 

Heterochromia is primarily a genetic condition, and the inheritance pattern depends on the type of heterochromia present. For complete heterochromia, the inheritance pattern is usually dominant, which means that a person with one copy of the gene responsible for heterochromia has a 50% chance of passing it on to their children.

Partial heterochromia is also genetic, but the inheritance pattern is more complex. It can be caused by a number of different genetic mutations, and it can be inherited in an autosomal dominant or recessive manner. Some cases of partial heterochromia are not inherited at all and are the result of other factors such as injury or illness.

Essentially, a person’s odds of having heterochromia depend on a number of genetic factors. [8] These include the presence of certain genes that control eye color and the presence of mutations in other genes that affect the development of the iris. Other factors that can influence a person’s odds of developing heterochromia include exposure to environmental toxins and other external factors.

Interesting facts

Heterochromia, or different-colored eyes, affects only 11 out of every 1,000 people.

People with different-colored eyes may have greater visual acuity in certain situations, such as detecting movement or contrast. 

Heterochromia can sometimes be temporary and can result from trauma, inflammation, or certain medications. 

The odds of having different-colored eyes are higher for people with a family history of heterochromia.

Heterochromia can occur in animals as well as humans. For example, it is common in dogs such as Australian Shepherds and Siberian Huskies. 

In some cultures, people with different-colored eyes are considered to be lucky or possess special powers.

Heterochromia has been referenced in literature and pop culture throughout history. For example, in Greek mythology, the goddess Athena was said to have grey eyes with one blue and one green fleck. 


As you are now aware, eye color is determined by complex genetic and environmental factors, with multiple genes and their interactions contributing to the final color of the iris. While most people have matching eye colors, there are cases where individuals can have two different colored eyes, known as heterochromia.

In summary are the key points to take away regarding two different colored eyes: 

  • Eye color is determined by genetics, with variations in the amount and type of pigment in the front layers of the iris resulting in different colors. 
  • Heterochromia is a rare condition that can result in two different colored eyes, and can be present at birth or develop later in life due to medical conditions or trauma. 
  • There are three types of heterochromia: complete, central, and sectoral. 
  • Horner’s syndrome, Waardenburg syndrome, and Sturge-Weber syndrome can also cause heterochromia. 
  • Heterochromia is more common in some populations than others, with prevalence ranging from less than 1% to up to 20% in certain groups. 
  • Genetics play a role in the odds of developing heterochromia, with certain genes and mutations potentially increasing the likelihood. 
  • While having two different colored eyes can be a striking and unique feature, it is important to monitor any changes or symptoms that may indicate an underlying medical issue.

Despite the rarity of heterochromia, it has gained a certain level of popularity in society, with some individuals even considering it a desirable trait. Actors such as Mila Kunis and Benedict Cumberbatch, who have heterochromia, have helped to bring attention to the condition and its unique beauty.


  1. https://pdf.sciencedirectassets.com/776861/1-s2.0-S0032579119X65633/1-s2.0-S0032579119504199/main.pdf
  2. https://www.optometrists.org/general-practice-optometry/guide-to-eye-health/heterochromia-why-are-my-eyes-different-colors/
  3. https://www.healthdigest.com/627769/most-people-dont-have-these-rare-body-features/
  4. https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/heterochromia.htm#:~:text=There%20are%20three%20types%20of,central%20heterochromia%20and%20sectoral%20heterochromia.
  5. https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2022/heterochromia-different-color-eyes.html
  6. https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2022/heterochromia-different-color-eyes.html
  7. https://www.healthdigest.com/752485/how-rare-is-it-to-have-two-different-colored-eyes/
  8. https://homedna.com/blog/two-different-colored-eyes-all-about-heterochromia-and-dna-homedna


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