A model in Ottawa, Canada made the decision to tattoo her eye purple, as it was her favorite color. Very quickly she realized something was wrong when the purple ink began to leak from the white part of her eye. Experiencing excruciating pain, her eye began to swell and become infected.
In recent years, the procedure of scleral staining or episcleral tattooing has become an emerging trend. The sclera is the white outer layer of the eye. It is significantly more porous and thinner than skin. As a consequence, these dyes and inks can easily diffuse through the sclera and reach the fragile visual processing structures inside the eye. According to a report in 2015, episcleral tattooing can result in headaches or photophobia (light sensitivity) to more severe complications like infection, hemorrhage or even direct penetration into the eyeball.
“Eye tattooing is not recommended as it is very dangerous and can cause serious complications. Once inside the eye, these chemicals will wreak havoc because of their innate toxicity and will most certainly lead to devastating visual loss,” says Charles W. Flowers, Jr. MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the USC Roski Eye Institute.
The ophthalmologist who treated model Catt Gallinger, observed a scleral tear from the large needle used to stain her eye as well as a severe infection. Gallinger received grafts and has permanent vision loss from this procedure.
Having posted multiple times on Facebook, Gallinger has brought greater awareness to the dangers of undergoing episcleral tattooing.
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By: Debbie Mitra, PhD