The colored part of your eye is called the iris. The color comes from a brown pigment called melanin. Different eye colors are caused by different amounts of pigment. Today, brown is the most common eye color worldwide. Scientists think that long ago when everyone lived in hot climates where it was sunny year-round everyone had brown eyes. Dark irises may have protected their eyes from being damaged by ultraviolet radiation and bright sunlight.
As people moved north, sun damage was less of a problem. Eye color became lighter, which may have made it easier to see better during the cold, dark winters. Europeans have the widest variety of eye colors.
Their eyes range from dark brown to light blue. In general, they have the lightest eye colors. Hazel, green, and blue eyes are common in Central and South America and some parts of the Middle East.
According to World Atlas , eye color tends to fall into these percentages:. If you have heterochromia , all or part of one of your irises is a different color than the other one. It can be the result of:. Scientists used to think your eye color was determined by two eye color genes, one from each parent.
Your eye color is determined by several genes that control melanin production in your iris. Darker eyes have a lot of melanin, while light eyes have only a little.
Melanin absorbs light. When an object absorbs light, it looks dark. Light reflected from your eye is from the blue part of the color spectrum. Brown eyes have a lot of melanin, so they absorb light, which makes them dark. Hazel eyes have less melanin than brown eyes, but more than green eyes. Blue eyes have the least amount of melanin and reflect the most light.
Because eye color is due to reflected light, blue, green, and even hazel eyes can change a little in different lighting conditions. Babies are the exception. With contact lenses, you can accentuate, enhance, or completely change your eye color. These lenses come in a wide variety of colors and can correct vision or not.
Learn about potential problems caused by colored contact lenses here. A surgical procedure originally developed to treat eye injuries and other conditions, the iris implant has been used to permanently change eye color. In , the American Academy of Ophthalmology warned against undergoing this procedure.
Read more about the iris implant and colored contacts here. Some medical conditions are known to affect eye color. Instead, they usually affect the whites or cornea of your eye. These conditions include:. Common eye diseases occur less often in people with brown eyes than with gray, green, or blue eyes.
This may be because melanin is protective. For example, a study found that type 1 diabetes was more common in people of northern European descent with blue eyes. This may be why diabetic retinopathy is more common in people with light-colored eyes. A study found women with light-colored eyes, such as blue or green, experienced less pain when giving birth compared to women with dark eyes, such as hazel or brown. They also had less depression, negative thoughts, and anxiety.
However, another study found eye color made no difference in the amount of pain women experienced when getting a dental injection. Your eye color is determined by the amount of melanin in the iris. Brown eyes have the most melanin and are the most common color. The lower the amount of melanin in your eyes, the lighter they will be.
Your eye color is permanently set around age 3. There are some ways to artificially change your eye color, but they can damage your eyes. It's an oft-repeated myth that all babies are born with blue eyes. In reality, it depends on a number of factors including how much melanin your baby…. How common is it for someone to have red hair and blue eyes? What causes these unique traits? And are people with red hair and blue eyes going extinct? There are ways to temporarily change your eye color, but can you change it permanently? Here's what you need to know.
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