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Is There Such Thing as a Permanent Eye Color Change?

Is There Such Thing as a Permanent Eye Color Change?

Beauty has always been a hotspot for innovations and trends. Whether you were born in the timeless 50’s where rocking a pompadour and a bright red lipstick were the stuff of glamour or if you’re in the era of booming online media where cosmetic and fitness trends are readily available, there’s no denying that beauty innovations will always continue to evolve.

Most beauty trends consist of makeup looks (eg. matte to glass skin, bushy brows, highlights, etc.) and hairstyles, but with the advancing technology that we have, beauty standards are an obvious point of focus for cosmetic and plastic surgery. Notable non-invasive to invasive medical procedures such as body contouring, breast augmentation, and botox immediately come to mind, but there’s one procedure that tugs the interest of many—permanent eye color change through iris implant surgery.

A medical procedure primarily designed to treat eye injuries and genetic conditions such as coloboma (part of the iris is missing) and aniridia (entire iris is missing), iris implant surgery is now being recognized albeit controversial, for its cosmetic purposes.

Case of coloboma

Case of coloboma

What exactly is Iris Implant Surgery?

Iris implant surgery entails inserting a folded artificial iris implant made of biocompatible colored medical grade silicone into a slit made onto the cornea. This silicone implant is then unfolded and adjusted accordingly. For this procedure, local anesthesia is used. A visual representation of this technique is seen below.

For those who have always wanted to have their dream eye color without having to constantly change and maintain contact lenses, having iris implants sounds like a dream come true. To have that one-time operation permanently change your eye color might sound enticing, but one should always take note of the risks.

Possible complications of iris implant surgery include:
•   Moderate to total loss of vision
•   Cataracts
•   Corneal injury
•   Uveitis, where the inflammation causes redness, pain, and blurred vision
•   Glaucoma

These risks are recounted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, noting that in all problematic cases recorded, implant removal was performed which added more risk in damaging the eyes.

This procedure has been performed in Mexico, Central America, Africia, and India but has gained a lot of debate due to reported untoward effects experienced by those who have undergone the surgery as well as backlash from experts. Fast forward to 2018, the United States FDA has approved its first ever prosthetic iris: the CustomFlex Artificial Iris, intended to focus on individuals needing the procedure for medical purposes as opposed to purely cosmetic causes.

Non-invasive procedures, when available, are more likely preferred—most especially in critical areas like the eyes. A particular medical corporation in Laguna Beach, California pioneered permanent eye color change via non-invasive measures. Unlike the gut-wrenching iris implant surgery, this non-invasive method uses laser to destroy the dark pigment on the iris to show a blue pigment. Also met with criticism by eye experts, this procedure has its share of potential complications (eg. ocular damage, extreme photosensitivity, etc.).

The idea of finally having those baby blue eyes may seem so appealing and promising, but is it really worth the risk?
Subjecting yourself to make-or-break procedures to achieve that desired eye color might be a stride too far as compared with buying yourself a good pair of colored contact lenses. With today’s ever-growing expanse of technology and creativity, new methods on permanently changing eye colors may develop, but contact lens innovations are ongoing, with no point of stopping.

Temporary could be better than permanent—case in point: eye color. One might prefer ocean blue eyes today and want green eyes the next year. Wearing and changing contacts everyday may seem like a chore, but it could be wiser to go with what is proven and tested safe than to be at the crossroads of possibly damaging your eyes. While cosmetic developments are always welcome, weighing the pros and cons is extremely vital in every major decision.

Is permanent the way to go? You be the judge.

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