Just when people thought face tattoos were the culmination of the body modification trend, another exotic approach to body art has made a bold, yet not-so-stunning debut on enthusiasts. Getting one’s eyeball tattooed, though many would argue is perfect for being the subject of stares from passer-by, is a trend that comes loaded with health risks.
The process of getting an eyeball tattoo, termed “sclera staining” by the scientific community, involves a series of steps that induce an equally warranted body cringe. Sclera staining is performed by injecting a colored, metal-bearing ink between the sclera, the white part of the eye and the conjunctiva, the clear layer on top. Experienced tattoo artists administer the ink through multiple injections around the pupil, allowing it to suffuse throughout the eyeball and completely saturate the formerly white part of the eye.
It is reasonable to assume that in modifying one of the most important and sensitive body organs, one would undertake enormous risks, especially since the procedure has not been studied by scientists. As sclera staining has seen a surge in popularity among body modification enthusiasts, reports of botched cases of eyeball tattoos have increased.
Catt Gallinger, a heavily inked Canadian model, suffered when she decided to have her eyeball tinted a shade of purple. Gallinger claimed that the male artist used too large of a needle when he injected the purple liquid into her eye, and failed to dilute the ink with saline, a required step. The model also alleged that he neglected to spread out the injections when tattooing her eye, barring the ink from spreading throughout her eye. One of Gallinger’s Facebook updates regarding her operation revealed a photo of her crying a purple teardrop, a result of the undiluted ink leaking out of the injection site due to a tear in the conjunctival tissue. In the post, Gallinger shared that in the aftermath of the procedure, she suffered excruciating pain and was prescribed a plethora of medication including antibiotic and steroidal eye-drops to reduce inflammation.”
In April 2017, an article from the American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports followed a 26-year-old man who was left with a laundry list of optical health complications following the procedure. After being admitted to a hospital, he was treated for orbital cellulitis and posterior scleritis, conditions of severe inflammation. Within several weeks, most of the swelling had resolved, but the procedure had taken a toll on his vision which remained at 20/25 in the affected eye.
Arguably the biggest problem surrounding eye tattoos is that the high-risk procedures are performed by non-ophthalmic personnel; in other words, not eye doctors. If an individual is getting an eyeball tattoo, then their most reliable source regarding the practitioner is their reputation from other clients, and even then, there are always great risks involved. While scleral staining remains an area of body modification that scientists have not yet studied, people are better off getting a skin tattoo.