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Eye and Vision Care

Can eye color changes indicate a close death?

12/03/2004

Question:

My father has terminal cancer and is nearing his final days. I have noticed his eye color is changing. Is this a normal process in crossing over to death and what causes it?

Answer:

Any time circulation to an organ is compromised, cells die due to a lack of oxygen. When this happens in the eye, the pigment cells in the iris can die (atrophy) and that can lead to a change in eye color. This color change will not affect his vision unless the sensory cells in the back of his eye (retina) are also affected.

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Response by:

Robert D Newcomb, OD, MPH, FAAO Robert D Newcomb, OD, MPH, FAAO
Professor Emeritus of Clinical Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University