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What is Sclera Discoloration?

by Conor Adan

 The sclera is the whites of the eye, which act as a protective layer. It covers the largest percentage of the eyeball surface. A healthy sclera is white, and there could be an underlying condition if it discolors. Sclera discoloration occurs when the color of the iris changes. It can appear under or around the eyes. The condition can lead to itching and inflammation around the eyes.

What Causes Sclera Discoloration?

Sclera discoloration can occur due to a wide range of factors. It’s important to understand these causes so you can see an ophthalmologist within the shortest time possible. The common causes include:


Scientific studies reveal that some multi-genetic processes dictate eye color. Melanocyte is a primary aspect of these processes. These are the cells responsible for creating pigmentation. Individuals with blue eyes have few melanocytes, while those with brown eyes have the largest number of melanocytes. The melanocytes often change with age and can result in eye discoloration.

Medical Conditions

Sclera Discoloration also occurs due to some diseases and medical conditions. For instance, acquired melanosis results in a brown patch sclera, mainly in middle-aged and older adults. If not addressed promptly, acquired melanosis advances to a deadly form of cancer. Addison’s disease and pigmentary glaucoma are also common causes of eye discoloration.


Some medications or herbal supplements can cause noticeable eye color changes. For instance, your eyes might develop a bluish-grey color due to prolonged silver salts and minocycline used for rheumatoid arthritis. Latanoprost, medication for glaucoma and eye pressure, can also lead to brown pigmentation in the eye. In addition, prolonged use of prednisone and antibiotics can cause eye discoloration.


Several individuals experience eye discoloration due to injuries to the eye. It can happen when force is used on the eye, enlarging the pupil and giving the illusion of a darker iris. Eye injuries can lead to permanent discoloration or injuring the melanocytes affecting their control over pigmentation production.


When suffering from allergies, it’s common to see color changes on your sclera. This happens as the immune system tries to respond to the irritants within your environment. The blood vessels dilate and increase blood flow in your eyes.

What Are the Common Colors Noted in Sclera Discoloration?


Prolonged exposure to UV rays, wind, and dust can lead to small patches of yellow tissues bulging out of the conjunctiva. The patches often appear red and inflamed. If left unaddressed, it could spread to the cornea and block vision.

If the entire sclera is yellow, jaundice and hepatitis could also be the problem. Jaundice results from liver problems that prevent it from functioning effectively. Hepatitis also causes the decreased function of the liver. This leads to bile build-up resulting in yellow eye whites, fatigue, and loss of appetite.


Brown spots on sclera can be harmless, or they might be a cause for concern. Primary acquired melanosis is one of the most notable causes of brownish eyes in middle-aged individuals. It slowly changes over time and can be cancerous if not treated on time. An ophthalmologist can examine and monitor brown spots on your eyes and recommend the best treatment procedures before they worsen.


Redness on your sclera could be due to injuries or other external factors. You should visit an eye specialist if the redness causes pain or has some discharge. In some instances, you might have a broken blood vessel that leaks between the sclera and conjunctiva. It can heal by itself, but it’s wise to seek medical attention to prevent further problems.

Bloodshot eyes could also result from the dilation of blood vessels. This happens when you are exhausted, have dry eyes, have been exposed to smoke, or have irritation from prolonged use of contact lenses. Your sclera might also appear pink due to conjunctivitis.

Blue or Grey

Your sclera can develop a blue or grey tint due to the long-term use of some medications. Antibiotics treat multiple conditions, but prolonged use can lead to sclera discoloration. If you notice these color changes, you should talk to your ophthalmologist to refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Should I Visit an Ophthalmologist?

Many treatments are available for people with the discolored sclera. However, the safest choice is to meet an eye doctor to openly discuss your concerns. Your discolored sclera might not be due to an underlying condition, but your imagination is not always correct. Only an eye specialist has the expertise and equipment to diagnose and recommend an appropriate treatment.

During the consultation, your specialist will ask about your eye health history and medications and perform some tests. You’ll also be examined by a surgeon who will discuss your treatment options. Some eye care offices also have a patient counselor who guides you throughout the process and ensures you are at ease.

How To Prevent Sclera Discoloration

Sclera discoloration can be irritating and embarrassing at the same time. Therefore, knowing ways to prevent it will help you prevent undesirable symptoms. Routinely cleansing your eyes using accredited cleansers and a cotton swab can minimize discoloration. It helps to remove oils that allow bacteria growth on your eyelid edges. If you have allergies, you can use antihistamines to prevent or treat eye discoloration. Some individuals also use herbal teas due to their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

These tips can be helpful, but visiting an ophthalmologist routinely is the most effective way to prevent and treat sclera discoloration. An eye specialist will assess your risks and recommend the best treatments. They can also catch eye discoloration early before it advances.


Eye discoloration is not an uncommon problem, as many people experience it. It can result from genetics, injuries, allergies, medical conditions, and prolonged use of certain medications. It can present itself in the form of yellow, brown, red, or pink colored sclera. Your diet can also cause the whites of your eyes to change color. If your diet negatively impacts your liver, the whites of your eyes might turn yellow due to jaundice. It’s crucial to consult with a professional ophthalmologist as soon as you notice unusual colors on the whites of the eyes.

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