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Why You Have Yellow Eyes (And How to Whiten Them)

eye doctor sits at table and talks to man about how to whiten eyes

When it comes to yellow eyes, most of the time the cause is a serious health condition. If a doctor has ruled out common health concerns, then you likely only have a cosmetic issue from lifestyle choices.

If your yellow eyes aren’t caused by a serious health problem, you can whiten your yellow eyes with at-home remedies, lifestyle changes, or with the help of an optometrist.

What Causes Yellow Eyes

Yellow eyes always have a cause. Treating the underlying condition or finding an external solution will typically solve your yellowing eye problem. Consulting with a physician should be your first step in treating yellow eyes as yellowing of the eyes is often caused by a serious underlying condition.

Serious Health Problems Can Cause Yellow Eyes

Our bodies are good at giving us hints when things aren’t working the way that they are supposed to. More often than not, yellow eyes are caused by jaundice from liver, pancreas, or gallbladder issues. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin isn’t broken down correctly. A buildup of bilirubin causes skin and eyes to turn yellow.

While it can be scary to have a problem with a major organ, most conditions that lead to yellow eyes can be treated rather easily with medication, a change in diet, or in extreme cases, surgery.

If you have noticed your eyes turning yellow see a doctor immediately. A liver, pancreas, or gallbladder issue will only get worse until it is treated.


Over-the-counter and prescription medications are another catalyst for yellow eyes. Certain antibiotics, over-the-counter painkillers, and other prescriptions such as birth control can cause yellowing of the eyes.

Most medications are processed through the liver. Even if medicine is causing your yellow eyes, it is most likely still tied to your liver since the liver metabolizes medication. If you’ve started a new prescription and notice yellow eyes, talk to your doctor.

Once you stop taking the medication and your liver has had time to adjust, your yellow eyes should turn white again without any other treatment.

Outdoor Elements

Eyes that become yellow or red due to irritants, such as outdoor elements, are caused by an eye disease known as pinguecula. Pinguecula causes red eyes more often than yellow, but if you have yellow eyes and have ruled out other underlying conditions, you may have pinguecula.

The main cause of yellow eyes that aren’t caused by internal health concerns is the sun. Over time the sun can yellow eyes. Other outdoor elements, such as dirt and wind can less commonly cause yellow eyes as well.

Protecting your eyes from harsh elements is important for various reasons; avoiding yellow eyes is one of the less serious ones. Regardless, you will prevent yellow and red eyes from being out of doors if you properly protect your eyes.

Lifestyle Choices

Anything that is known to damage your liver can lead to yellow eyes. If you are consuming too much alcohol or eating a diet that is damaging your liver, you may notice your eyes start to yellow.

Can smoking cause your eyes to yellow?

The jury is divided. It is possible that the smoke from cigarettes can cause your eyes to turn yellow, but there is no definitive evidence either way. It is more likely that smoking will cause a liver problem that will then result in yellow eyes (the same way that alcohol and some foods do).

Eye-Whitening Solutions

If your yellow eyes are caused by an underlying health condition, treating the condition will help your eyes to whiten.

If your yellow eyes are linked to lifestyle choices or outside elements there are options to help clear your yellow eyes.

Eye Drops

Many eye drop options can help with yellowing of the eyes and any accompanying irritation. An optometrist might recommend and prescribe a steroid eye drop to help. There are also over-the-counter products available.

Some eye drops are not for whitening, but they will help alleviate drying and irritating symptoms which can help your pinguecula heal and ultimately lead to whiter eyes.

woman wearing sunglasses to protect her eyes from sun exposure and outdoor elementsOutdoor Eye Protection

The sun, dirt, and other outside elements can cause irritation that leads to yellow eyes. Sunglasses and wide-brim hats are the easiest ways to protect your eyes while outside.

Not all sunglasses are created equal. There are many types of lenses, as well as frames that block more sun from the side than others. If your aim is to protect your eyes you can find helpful and fashion-forward options. Take time to research and find the best sunglasses for eye health.

If you need sunglasses that won’t interfere with work or a hobby you can find specialty sunglasses for outdoor sports or other activities with the help of your optometrist.

Sunglasses are beneficial for more than just preventing the yellowing of your eyes. The additional benefits are just as important as preventing cosmetic yellowing.

Lifestyle Changes

Everything you consume affects your liver. Because of this, changing what you eat, drink, and consume can help to lessen the amount of bilirubin your liver releases. Less bilirubin in your system will automatically lessen the yellow in your eyes.

Your liver will produce less bilirubin if you quit smoking, drink less alcohol, drink more water, and eat more liver-healthy foods and fewer liver-damaging foods. Typically whole foods, vegetables, fruit, and lean protein are processed more efficiently by your liver.


In extreme cases of pinguecula surgery may be needed to rectify yellowing. This will be done by an ophthalmologist and requires a month-long recovery period.

Your optometrist can refer you to a trusted ophthalmologist if surgery is necessary.

Speak With an Optometrist

optometrist conducting eye exam on patient

If you have yellow eyes and know you don’t have a serious health condition, an optometrist can help you find the least invasive way to treat your eyes. You can try over-the-counter products first, but with eye insurance, a routine exam is free and worth doing for optimal eye health, regardless of the color of your sclera.

Book a routine eye exam today to have your concerns checked out and to make sure your vision is where it needs to be.

This article is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute as medical advice. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician.

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