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It can be common that eye doctors get patients who come in asking if the white part of their eye, the sclera, has a growth or is turning a gray color.

This is called a senile scleral plaque, which is commonly seen in people over the age of 70. It is a benign condition and more commonly seen in women.  This condition is symmetrically found on both sides of eyes and is due to age-related degeneration and calcification of the eye muscle insertion into the eye.  In one study, the size of the senile scleral plaque increased as the person ages and was not associated with any medical conditions.  People are asymptomatic, as the plaques do not affect vision and no treatment is needed.

Another commonly asked question is: Why is the colored part of my eye turning white?  

The colored part of the eye is the iris, which is covered by a clear layer called the cornea.  It is actually the edge of the cornea that attaches to the white part of the eye that becomes grey or whitish colored.

This condition is called arcus senilis, which is seen in over 60% of people over the age of 60 and approximately 100% over the age of 80.  There is no visual impairment and no treatment is needed. Sometimes when this condition is seen in younger patients, it may be related to high cholesterol so a visit to the primary care doctor may be needed.  

These are two very commonly encountered conditions that may cause distress for patients because it seems like their eyes are changing colors.

Thankfully, no treatment is needed for these two conditions, as they do not affect vision.

Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan