6 Health Problems You’re More & Less Prone To If You Have Brown Eyes

Your eyeballs can have quite a few health problems, all on their own. So it’s important to monitor your vision for changes, and see an eye doctor if anything feels out of the ordinary. But depending on your eye color, you might also be prone to certain health issues, both related and unrelated to the actual eye itself.

Let’s take brown eyes, for example. Since darker eyes have more melanin, or pigment, in them than blue or green eyes, they do a really good job of filtering out damaging UV rays from the sun, which can help protect against certain eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration. But the very fact brown eyes don’t let in much light can also increase your risk for other health issues. Genetics may play a role, here, in regard to the health problems you might experience, if you have darker eyes.

It doesn’t, however, mean that you’re guaranteed to have specific health problems, simply because you have brown eyes. “Genetics do have an impact on our predisposition of a disease but ultimately do not determine our fate,” world-renowned ophthalmologist Dr. Ming Wang, tells Bustle. “Genetics do put certain individuals at higher risk than others in the population. A healthy lifestyle including exercise, eating an antioxidant rich diet, and wearing sunscreen are factors which can help reduce risk of certain diseases including cataract, macular degeneration, and skin cancer.” With that in mind, here are a few health issues you might be more prone to if you have brown eyes, according to experts.

Folks with brown eyes might be at a higher risk for developing cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens of the eye that can lead to changes in vision as you get older.

According to one study, “those with brown eyes were 1.59 to 2.5 times more likely to have cataracts than those with lighter eyes,” Dr. Wang says. “The research is inconclusive as to why, but a theory is that because UV light absorbs more into the iris of dark colored eyes, [it can cause an] increase in temperature that over decades could [lead to] cataracts.”

To help prevent cataracts from forming, Dr. Wang says it’s important to wear protective sunglasses whenever you’re outside in the sun — regardless of your eye color. He also says a wide brim hat can help shield your eyes, in addition to sunglasses.

There is good news, however. Due to their darker color, brown eyes may not be as susceptible to macular degeneration, which is the age-related deterioration of the retina in the eye that leads to impaired vision.

“While brown irises are a risk factor for cataracts, they are actually protective for other conditions, the most predominant being macular degeneration, which occurs less commonly in those with brown eyes,” Dr. Wang says. “This may be because UV light is being absorbed by the iris — as it interacts with the more prominent pigment — rather than transmitted through where it can reach the deeper retina.” With blue and green eyes, this damaging light flies right in and penetrates deeper into the eye, causing damage over time.

That’s not to say, though that you shouldn’t protect your vision if you have brown eyes. It’s still important to wear sunglasses and hats, to keep UV light away.

Research has shown that people with darker eyes may be more likely to suffer from SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. Also known as seasonal depression, this is a mood disorder that occurs at the same time every year — generally in the winter months when the days are shorter.

According to WebMD, it’s not clear the exact cause of SAD, but scientists believe it may have something to do with hormones that trigger attitude-related changes at certain times of the year. The lack of daylight in winter doesn’t help. And eye color may play a role, too.

After studying 175 participants to determine the extent to which their mood varied with the seasons, one team of researchers, who presented their findings at The British Psychological Society’s conference, found that women with brown eyes experienced more changes in mood than those with lighter eyes.

The idea is that brown eyes absorb more light, which prevents it from reaching the brain, where it helps regulate mood. According to a co-author of the study, Professor Lance Workman, we know that light entering the brain causes a decrease in levels of melatonin. Lighter eyes don’t filter out as much light, which is why folks with blue or green eyes may have more stable moods.

According to research by anesthesiology professor Inna Belfer, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh, women with light eyes may be able to tolerate more pain and discomfort, while women with brown eyes may be far more sensitive.

The study, which was conducted on a small group of women before and after they gave birth, found that people with darker eyes not only had more anxiety and sleep disturbances in response to the pain they experienced, but also felt a greater pain reduction after receiving an epidural — pointing further to a higher sensitivity.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that causes the loss of skin color in patches, and may affect hair pigment, too. Complications include a higher risk of sunburn or skin cancer, eye problems — such as inflammation of the iris — and even hearing loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, which tracked about 3,000 people with vitiligo, identified 13 genes linked to a predisposition for the disease. It was found that people with the disease were significantly less likely to have blue or gray eyes than those without it.

While doctors aren’t 100 percent sure what causes it, vitiligo may be more likely to occur if one of your family members has it. It may also be trigged by stressful events or damage to the skin, such as a sunburn or exposure to chemicals. There is currently no cure, but if you notice patches of unpigmented skin, definitely point it out to your doctor.

People with brown eyes may be more sensitive to the affects of alcohol, than those with lighter eyes. According to a study published in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found higher self-reported alcohol use among women with light eyes

In the study, researchers hypothesized that women with darker eyes may be more sensitive to alcohol in general, which may lead them to drink less. Just something to keep in mind, whenever you’re out drinking, so you can better protect your health.

Having brown eyes doesn’t guarantee these health issues will occur. But it is interesting to think about the role eye color might play, in regards to your health. And to always be aware of any risk you might have, so you can be an advocate for your own health, and work with your doctor to lower your chances of having issues down the road.

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