Cracking The Pupil Code: The No-Frills, No-Panic Guide To Anisocoria

In these technology-rich days, you can arrive at six different diagnoses for that odd-looking spot or that pounding headache in under a minute. But while the internet can be high on content, it can be low on context, which can lead you to unnecessary (and unhelpful) panic before you ever step foot in a clinic. This goes double for anisocoria (uneven pupils), which has both urgent and completely benign causes. If you're looking for the lowdown -- without the panic -- on anisocoria, then here's what you need to know.

It's not that uncommon -- or unnatural

Lady Gaga might give you the most soothing sentiment about your differently sized pupils: you were born this way. About 1 out of every 5 people whose pupils differ in size from each other were simply born that way, and the condition is completely benign. The difference in these cases is usually around 1 millimeter, and while this is noticeable, it's certainly not anything to become concerned about.

Watch for other symptoms/contributing factors

While it's true that anisocoria can be indicative of larger problems, the difference in your pupils without any other physiological symptoms is a good sign. Most more pressing concerns with anisocoria are accompanied by some sort of pain or other issue.

If you've had any eye or head trauma in the past, your pupils could be reacting to that. Anything from a tiny shard of glass to a car accident could prompt anisocoria, so try to remember if you've experienced any trauma. In addition, some common pharmacy drugs can cause anisocoria (such as pilocarpine, dextromethorphan, and scopolamine), so it's a good idea to check your medication and jot down exactly what and how much of it you're taking.

You still should go to the optometrist

Even if you feel fine, if you notice that one pupil is obviously larger or smaller than the other, it's a good idea to get it checked out. Anisocoria can be indicative of diagnoses like Horner's Syndrome or a brain tumor, so it's nothing to take lightly.

That doesn't mean you need to worry or panic before listening to what your eye doctor has to say, however. There are more mild diagnoses (like Adie syndrome) that accompany anisocoria than serious diagnoses, and increasing stress can sometimes induce symptoms (like headaches) that aren't actually part of your condition. If you stay calm and remember that the positive possibilities outweigh the bad, you should be able to get it taken care of and go back to your life soon.