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10 celebrities with eye conditions

Posted on 17 August 2022

Jennifer Aniston, Tiger Woods and Bono have very different lives, careers and interests but they have one thing in common – common eye conditions.

Read on to find out why Aniston struggled to read scripts, why Bono always wears shades and whether laser eye surgery was the secret of Woods’ success.

We’ll also tell you which celeb has a nickname for her right eye, have a look at why David Bowie’s eyes were different colours (or were they?), hear how Venus Williams looks after her (eye) health and much, much more…

This article does not reflect the endorsement of any particular product and/or treatment by the mentioned celebrities for their eye condition.

1. Bono

Have you ever wondered why U2 frontman Bono always seems to wear sunglasses, even indoors?

Chat show host Graham Norton certainly wanted to know and, when he asked him, Bono revealed that it wasn’t just a rock star thing – he has glaucoma.

Glaucoma’s when the optic nerve – the communication cable between the eye and brain – becomes damaged1. Sunglasses are often used by patients as a way of dealing with an increased sensitivity to light.

During the interview2, Bono said he’d had glaucoma for 20 years.  His diagnosis, during a routine eye test, came as a surprise to him because he thought he had perfect vision.

If it’s not caught and treated early, glaucoma can lead to loss of vision but treatment, which can be as simple as eye drops, can help stop things from getting worse.1

Bono told Graham Norton: “I have good treatments and I’m going to be fine.”3

2. David Bowie

Looking at these pictures of David Bowie, what do you see?

The pop icon was known for his different coloured eyes – one brown and one blue – almost as much as his music.  But what you are looking at is, in all senses of the phrase, an optical illusion.

Bowie’s eyes were actually both blue but his pupils were different sizes, something that’s called anisocoria.4

The story goes4 that a scratch to Bowie’s eyeball during a teenage fight with a friend over a girl damaged the tiny muscles that controlled the size of his left pupil – the black “hole” in the middle of the eye.

With his left pupil stuck on large, thanks to the damaged muscle, Bowie’s left eye appeared darker than his right one.

He went on to thank his friend for accidentally creating his signature look, though, and the mystique it gave him.

3. Alice Eve

In case you’re wondering, having eyes that are two different colours is possible too. Star Trek actress Alice Eve has one eye that’s green and one that’s blue.

Asked if she was aware of the condition, which is called heterochromia, when she was a kid, she said: “It’s so weird, this thing with the eyes! All through my life, I didn’t really consider my eyes at all, and then I became an actress.

“It’s great, I guess.  It’s different, and I’m definitely a proponent of being different in any way you can in life, so I guess if you’re born a bit different that’s a good thing.”

The colour difference is pretty subtle though, which might explain why it took one boyfriend several, ahem, months, to notice it!5

Heterochromia is caused by differences in levels of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to the eyes and is pretty rare in people.6 It’s more common in the animal kingdom though, including in some breeds of pet pooch – you might spot it in a Dalmatian.7

4. Venus Williams

The seven-time Grand Slam champ has Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition that can make the eyes and mouth very dry.  Other symptoms can include severe tiredness and joint and muscle pain.8

Williams has described dry eyes and mouth as the “extra-special friends that come along with it” and said her dry eyes make it very difficult to wear contact lenses.9

Her tips for self-care include pacing yourself and not being too hard on yourself.

Speaking on her YouTube channel, she said: “Remember that everything counts and being able to do even something is better than nothing.  There were days where I just wasn’t able to train the way I wanted to and I couldn’t run.  Even if I could only run for five minutes, I thought ‘that’s better than no minutes’.

“Think about the things you can accomplish instead of what you can’t accomplish.”

She also advises staying hydrated, getting enough sleep (she’s stopped reading emails at night to avoid stressing herself out) and eating healthily (lay off the sugar and processed food!).9

5. Kristen Bell

You’ve likely never noticed it but Kristen Bell, the voice of Princess Anna in Frozen and the star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, has a squint.10  Also known as strabismus, or even crossed eyes, it’s when someone’s eyes point in different directions. This can happen all the time or it can come and go.10,11

Bell says hers is most obvious when she’s tired and that you can sometimes see her right eye drift on screen.

She’s come up with a code word for late-night shoots and gets the cameraman to call it out when her right eye is doing its own thing.12

6. Brittany Howard

Multi Grammy Award-winning singer Brittany Howard has been blind in one eye since childhood.12

The lead singer of rock band Alabama Shakes turned successful solo artist, had retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer that starts in the retina, the very back part of the eye.13

Retinoblastoma can be genetic13 and, when Howard was nine, her older sister died from the condition.  She told CBS News: “They caught mine in time cos it was years later.  And I was fine.  But it’s left me, like, blind in one eye.”

Howard turned to music when her parents split up soon after her sister’s death.

She even wrote her own songs – although not everyone was a fan!

“So I just dug this guitar out of the closet, my sister’s guitar. Started teaching myself how to play. I took it to my music teacher at school, she tuned it for me. And then I just took it home and wrote my own songs,” she said.

“The neighbours hated it!”14

7. Jennifer Aniston

When she was asked in an interview if she had any addictions, Jennifer Aniston gave a rather unusual answer – eye drops.15

The Friends star is one of the tens of millions of people around the world16 with dry eye, a condition in which, as the name suggests, the eyes are drier than they should be. This can be because they don’t make enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly.17

Treatments include small lifestyle changes and eye drops. Some people find gels and ointments helpful, too.17

Aniston’s talked about how she reads a lot about her health and told the interviewer she thought she was “up on everything” but had never heard of dry eye. She added: “If you don’t have glasses, you don’t think that we have to consider our eye health.”

Trips to the beach would make Aniston’s symptoms, including painful, irritating and itchy eyes, flare up. When her symptoms were really bad, scripts were difficult to read.

Pollen was hazard, too.  Oh, and glittery eye shadow was a no-no.15

8. Tiger Woods

If you have to screw up your eyes to see more than a few feet in front of you, you are in rather good company. Tiger Woods was so short-sighted that he’d have been considered legally blind if he didn’t wear glasses or contact lenses.18

His eye surgeon said: “He had what I call ‘counting fingers vision’. He could only count my fingers a foot from his face.”19

All that changed when the golfer had laser eye surgery in 1999. He could see the humps and hollows of the golf course better – and even the all-important holes looked bigger.19

Woods won his first tournament back – the start of a winning streak that saw him go on dominate golf. Coincidence?  That’s for you to decide!

In 2007, Woods realised it was time to do it again.  He was still happy with his first op though, saying: “Mine stayed the way it should for — what is it, eight years now. That’s pretty good.”18

9. Mila Kunis

“I was blind in one eye for many years and nobody knew,” Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Black Swan star Mila Kunis revealed in an interview.20

Kunis had a condition called chronic iritis, in which the middle bit of the eyeball becomes red and swollen.20 It can lead to cataracts – that’s when the eye’s clear lens starts to become cloudy.  Over time, this can lead to blindness.21,22

She told Cosmopolitan magazine in 2011 that a cataract op had restored her vision. “I’m not blind anymore,” she said. “I had surgery a couple of months ago. They cut it open and dropped a new lens in there.”20

10. Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder has been blind since shortly after he was born.  As a premature baby, he was put in an incubator and given high levels of oxygen.23

This was a common treatment for tiny babies when Wonder was born in 1950 and doctors didn’t yet know that it could damage the retina, one of the most delicate parts of the eye.24

He’s never felt bitter about it though, telling chat show host Oprah Winfrey that the doctor “didn’t have any intent to harm me”.23

The legendary singer-songwriter added that being teased about his condition, which is called retinopathy of prematurity, taught him to persevere.

“When I was a child, kids used to make fun of me because I was blind,” he said. “But I just became more curious: ‘How can I climb this tree and get an apple for this girl?’ That’s what mattered to me.”

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