Eye Tattoos: The Trend That Could Harm Your Eyes

It’s the newest trend in extreme body modifications; eyeball tattoos. Eyeball tattoos, or sclera tattoos, inject needles containing dyes into the white portions of your eye. Although this may look like a unique way to communicate your individuality, this new trend is extremely dangerous to your eyes and vision.

With sclera tattoos, the injected ink adheres to a very thin layer of skin found within the eye. This layer of skin is called the conjunctiva and it lies directly over the whites of your eyes, or scleras. Injecting dye into this layer of skin gives the sclera a colored appearance. Since sclera tattoos work in the same way as normal tattoos, they are also just as permanent.

The tattoo procedure itself is very dangerous. Consider that opthamologists undergo anywhere from twelve to eighteen years of specialized ophthalmic training while a tattoo artist has most likely never undergone any type of this specialized training, and this risk becomes excessively apparent. An unskilled hand inserting a needle into the eye could cause a range of problems including: scratching the eye, infection, puncturing the sclera, blindness, and the loss of the eye or vision.  

In addition there are several risks with the procedure itself, even if it is done correctly. Assuming the needle goes in without complication, there is also the possibility of too much ink causing complications. Some of the short-term risks from sclera tattoos include: headaches, sensitivity to light, and staining of the surrounding tissues. It is also important to note that these risks increase in those individuals who have pre existing eye conditions or those who use prescription contact lenses.

There is also the risk of possible allergic reactions. Most allergic reactions are caused by the different types of inks used and some inks may be more prone to causing reactions than others. For example UV reactive and red inks have been found to have a higher risk of causing complications.

Since this is a rather new procedure, emerging approximately seven years ago, the long-term effects are not currently known. It is said that if you are to undergo this procedure that you must be willing to risk these effects, whatever they may be. It has also been said that these long-term effects could be potential blindness or loss of your eye.

Many ophthalmologists are warning against sclera tattoos because they are simply too risky and dangerous to the various structures in your eyes. Even the inventor of eye tattoos, Luna Cobra admits that the procedure is extremely dangerous and should be banned to anyone who does not have the appropriate qualifications or licensing. Cobra, and other tattoo artists, agree that the procedure is beautiful, however it should be performed by those who are properly trained to reduce the risks.

Before considering an eye tattoo, you should think very seriously about what the consequences are. Yes, it may look unique, but is this really worth the possible loss of your vision or even your eye. “Eye” don’t think so.

Dr. Paul D. Trapeni JrAt The Optical Shoppe, we're dedicated to optometry excellence under the guidance of Dr. Paul D Trapeni. Serving the Smyrna community since 1989, Dr. Trapeni is a trusted member of the community, bringing general and specialized optometry care to individuals and families throughout the area.