This Is What An Eye Looks Like With Half Its Iris Peeled Off

A blue iris. PhotoJS/Shutterstock

Many of us like to imagine ourselves with different colored eyes, sometimes even using colored contact lenses to play around with our appearance. But have you ever wondered what an eye without its colorful iris looks like? Well, wonder no more, there is now a detailed image certainly worth more than a thousand words on the subject.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) posted the photo as part of their weekly Image Challenge. They asked people to try to guess the condition depicted in the image given the following facts: “A 48-year-old man presented to the ophthalmology clinic with a 1-week history of pain, double vision, and blurred vision in his left eye. What is the abnormality depicted here?”


These are the options they gave: a separation of the iris, separation of the pupil, separation of the sclera (the white bit of the eye), separation of the lens, or is it a normal eye? I’m sure the patient wished it was the latter, but unfortunately the answer is that his iris was detached.

The top half of the poor man’s iris, untethered to the eye, sagged downward on itself. The role of the iris is to control the diameter and size of the pupil. It’s the diaphragm of the eye, responsible for the amount of light the retina actually receives. This is why it changes in size when conditions alter from dark to bright and vice versa. It is not surprising that the patient suffered from blurred and double vision.

The condition, known as traumatic iridodialysis, was caused by a blunt-force injury a week before the image was taken. He was struck by a retracting bungee cord while securing objects to his motorcycle.

Iridodialysis is a serious condition but it is not necessarily irreversible. Depending on the extent of the damage, a detached iris can be healed with anti-glaucoma agents. For more serious cases, surgical repairs are the go-to option.

If you are interested in seeing more images of unusual conditions, there’s plenty on the NEJM quiz website.

[H/T: Science Alert]


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