One of the interesting things about being a Highland ophthalmologist is the number of questions we get about how eyes work, why they need correction, and even why they look the way they do. This last question frequently arises from people who have hazel eyes despite neither parent sharing this trait. How did they get a completely different eye color?
Ophthalmologists have long thought that eye color depends mainly on genes, but hazel eyes would seem to be the exception to this rule. We now know that it takes much more than genes to determine the color of a person's eyes. Eye color really comes down to the amount of melanin you’re born with and that develops over time.
Your eyes don’t actually have a color to them, the pigment we see is how the iris reflects and bends light. The iris is the only portion of the eye that holds coloring, and it’s the melanin that gives the impression of that color. In hazel eyes, the amount of melanin isn’t evenly distributed, giving the center a brown pigment, and the outskirts green or blueshading. What makes hazel eyes all the more interesting is that they change color with different lighting and clothing.
Most Caucasian babies are born with blue eyes that later turn green, hazel, or brown. This is because very little melanin is dispensed at the time of birth. As the child ages, more melanin becomes present and changes their eyes to a more permanent color. Babies of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent are usually born with brown eyes. This is because there is more melanin at birth. Melanin also plays a large role in skin color. The more melanin you have, the more likely you are to have brown eyes. When you have less melanin, you’re most likely to have blue eyes.
It’s not only the amount of melanin that plays a role, it’s the even dispersal that gives your eyes a solid color like blue, green, or brown. With hazel eyes, this dispersal isn’t consistent, causing the eyes to change from amber to green or blue depending on your clothing and the amount of light. This may be due in part to the wavelengths entering the eye. High amounts of melanin soak up more light giving the impression of brown eyes, but low levels absorb little light and cause these wavelengths to spread and reflect a lighter color.
The colors of your parent’s eyes do not determine the color of yours. While genetics play part of a role, the culprit is the naturally occurring chemical melanin. What makes hazel eyes so fascinating, and all the more beautiful, is the mystery behind them. It takes many elements to create this hazelnut reflection, and only part of the reason is understood.
For more information on eye color and the reasons behind it please contact us at 845-454-1025 . At Seeta Eye Care Centers, we are dedicated to helping residents of Highland, Poughkeepsie, Fishkill, and the surrounding areas of New York with any vision related issues.