Laser Surgery to Change Eye Color Untested for Safety Risks
Ophthalmologists concerned over potential risks for glaucoma, uveitis, and other unintended consequences
According to recent media reports, a cosmetic procedure that changes the color of a person's eyes from brown to blue is being performed in small patient trials in Mexico and Puerto Rico. The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, is alerting consumers that the procedure has yet to undergo clinical trial testing in the United States to determine any potential safety risks.
The procedure works by using lasers to eliminate pigment in the iris, the portion of the eye that gives them their color. Blue eyes contain no pigment. Eyes that are darker contain melanin, a type of pigment produced by melanocyte cells. According to materials from Stroma Medical, the company that created the procedure, a laser is used to destroy these pigment cells and results in pigment granules leaking out, leaving eyes to appear blue.
Some ophthalmologists have expressed concern that pigment molecules accumulating in the eye could potentially cause glaucoma, a disease marked by high pressure in the eye that can lead to vision loss or blindness. Among the other potential risks is inflammation of the eye, or uveitis.
“One of the main issues is that we don’t know enough about the procedure to say whether or not it will cause problems like glaucoma down the line,” said ophthalmologist Ivan Schwab, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, Davis.
The Academy advises that currently the safest way to temporarily change eye color is by wearing colored contact lenses prescribed, dispensed and fitted by a qualified eye health professional, who can also determine whether a person is a suitable candidate for contact lens wear.