David Bowie was a force to reckon with and most people recognize him for his contributions to the music industry, his unique style, and personality, as well as his eccentric dressing style. However, one of David’s most unique traits has to be his eyes.

His eyes appeared to be of two different colors. Upon scrutiny, it was apparent that his pupils were not the same size. What David Bowie had was a case of anisocoria. Yup, according to the not-for-profit media outlet ‘The Conversation,’ his left pupil was permanently dilated (1).

David Bowie in upclose photos showing his anisocoria eye problem
David Bowie photos courtesy of DBHQ

In the next few paragraphs, we are going to discuss everything you may want to know about the condition in relation to David Bowie so you may want to keep it here.

What is Anisocoria? And A Bit About the David Bowie Story

Anisocoria is the medical term given to a condition where someone’s pupils are two different sizes. ‘Anisocoria’ simply means ‘not equal’ in Greek. Well, the condition is sometimes temporary, but what Bowie had was a permanent case.

In some cases, the difference in the size of the pupils is not always noticeable with the difference being as little as 0.4-mm. Bowie’s case was different because the difference in size was apparent.

It may surprise you to learn that the condition typically affects about 20% of the global population, that’s according to the John Hopkins Medical Center (2). The good news is that the pupils will differ in size with a 0.4-0.5 mm margin, which is hardly noticeable. According to a study, treating anisocoria might be unnecessary (3).

Instead, underlying conditions that cause it should be assessed and treated accordingly.

 What Causes It?

Different-sized pupils can be inherited so a child is likely to be born with unequal size pupils that they share with one of their parents or a direct relative. Luckily, there is no cause for alarm if the difference in the size of pupils is genetic.

That said; eye drops or aerosol medications in otherwise healthy persons can sometimes cause the condition (4). Still, this is not a cause for concern because the pupils usually return to normal and equal size after a while.

Other factors that can cause the condition include swollen membranes around the brain, stroke, an aneurysm, and intracranial hemorrhaging. Sometimes, the condition is even caused by glaucoma or migraines. If you suffer seizures, your pupils are likely to have different sizes afterward.

When should you Seek Medical Help?

Anisocoria may be caused by both minor and serious factors and because of that, it may be hard to decide whether to seek medical help or just wait it out.

But what should you do if you notice that your pupils are not the same size? Well, the best course of action is to see a doctor.

The same is true if you experience anisocoria after injuring your eye or hitting your head on a hard surface.

Anisocoria is usually characterized by symptoms like (5):

*Vision loss


*Blurry or double vision

*Pain in the eyes

*Nausea and headaches

*Sensitivity to light

If your pupils are of different sizes and come with any of the aforementioned symptoms, you want to consult a doctor right away for further assessment.

How Did David Bowie End Up with the Condition?

One undeniable fact is that David Bowie had unequal pupil sizes throughout his career. Now, given that the condition can be caused by different factors, you may be wondering whether for him it was genetic or caused by another serious condition.

Well, the truth is that Bowie’s condition developed after he was involved in a fight over a girl. In his youthful years, David and his best friend George Underwood found themselves interested in the same girl.

Of course, with raging hormones and immaturity, they disagreed about the same, and instead of solving it amicably; they decided to fight it out. As it turns out, George punched David directly in the left eye.

Years later when Bowie recounted the story, he confirmed that the blow to his eye was not as heavy but he had a feeling that his friend’s fingernail had scratched his eye and paralyzed his iris in the process.


His pupils remained dilated and different sizes even after two surgeries. This is how he ended up with his signature look. The good news is that he remained friends with Underwood with Bowie thanking his friend years later for doing that to his eyes saying it made him appear somehow mysterious.

Related Articles on this Topic

What’s 20/30 Vision? Can it be Corrected?

A List of Celebrities with Grey Eyes

A List of Famous People with Heterochromia

Final Thoughts

What do you learn from David Bowie’s eye condition? Granted, he ended up benefiting from an unfortunate twist of events that led to him having a unique appearance. However, this might not happen to all of us. If you realize that your pupils are not the same size, you may want to seek medical help as soon as possible.

That way, they will be able to determine whether you have a case of Anisocoria and whether it is genetic or caused by something more serious that requires medical attention.

  1. https://theconversation.com/the-remarkable-story-behind-david-bowies-most-iconic-feature-52920
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/pupillary-disorders-including-anisocoria
  3. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/eye-disorders/symptoms-of-ophthalmologic-disorders/anisocoria
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5849440/
  5. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-anisocoria

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