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  • Iris Implant Surgery to Change Eye Color Can Be Dangerous, American Academy of Ophthalmology Warns

    SAN FRANCISCO — Following recent media reports about a cosmetic iris implant surgery to change eye color, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, is warning consumers not to undergo the procedure, which has the capacity to cause serious eye damage, vision loss and blindness.

    Cosmetic iris implants have not been evaluated by any U.S. regulatory agency or tested for safety in clinical trials. While the implants are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it has been reported in the media this month that the surgery is being performed overseas. During iris implant surgery, an artificial iris made of silicone is folded and inserted into a slit that has been cut into the cornea. Then the iris is unfolded and adjusted to cover the natural iris. Local anesthesia is used.  

    Studies show that serious complications of the iris implant procedure can include:

    • Reduced vision or blindness;
    • Elevated pressure inside the eye that can lead to glaucoma, a potentially blinding disease;
    • Cataract, or clouding of the eye's naturally clear lens;
    • Injury to the cornea, the clear outer area of the eye that focuses light and makes vision possible. If severe enough, a corneal transplant may be needed;
    • Inflammation of the iris or areas around it, leading to pain, blurred vision and tearing.

    In a 2012 study of seven patients with complications from iris implants, all patients had to have both their implants removed, introducing more risk of damaging the eye. Complications included cataracts in nine eyes, glaucoma in seven eyes and hemorrhaging of one eye during implant removal surgery. Doctors had to perform six corneal transplants on these patients.[i]  

    "Anyone who is considering this surgery should ask themselves this: what is more important – my eye color or my eyesight?" said ophthalmologist James Tsai, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology who has conducted research on medical complications from colored iris implants. "The color change is not the only thing that's permanent about this procedure; it could very well damage your vision for life."

    The Academy advises that the safest way to change eye color is to find out if you are a suitable candidate for colored contact lenses, which should only be worn if prescribed, dispensed and fitted by a qualified eye health professional.

    For more information about cosmetic iris implants, visit the Academy's public education website EyeSmart.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
    The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, serving more than 32,000 members worldwide. The Academy's mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care. For more information, visit 

    The Academy is also a leading provider of eye care information to the public. The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit EyeSmart or OjosSanos to learn more.