Permanent eye colour change can seriously damage your vision, warns Penningtons Manches' cosmetic surgery team

Posted: 27/10/2014


It has been reported that reality star, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, has had cosmetic surgery to permanently change the colour of her eyes from dark brown to ice-grey.  It was initially thought that Tiny was wearing coloured contact lenses as the difference was so shocking but Tiny has confirmed that the rumours that she has a new set of eyes are true.

Tiny’s eye colour was permanently changed using a procedure developed in the United States by Dr Kenneth Rosenthal which costs over $5,000.  The procedure uses an artificial iris implant made of thin, flexible, biocompatible, coloured medical grade silicone that has been developed to alter iris appearance for medical and cosmetic purposes.  The same implant material is currently used in surgery for cataract or for vision correction.  The implant will last the lifetime of the patient.  Since the fake iris is very flexible, it can be folded and inserted into the eye through a peripheral corneal surgical incision about 2.8 mm long and then unfolded over the natural iris.

It can be used medically for patients with iris abnormalities such as ocular albinism, coloboma, total/partial aniridia, heterochromia and other iris-related abnormalities to protect the eyes from the harmful effects of sunlight in patients who suffer from high levels of photosensitivity.  More recently it is being used to alter eye colour and serves as an alternative to coloured contact lenses for those wishing to achieve permanent cosmetic results.

According to the website of BrightOcular, the company behind the increasingly popular cosmetic eye surgery, the procedure is “short, safe, and painless”, taking about 15 minutes for each eye.  Unlike other laser-based procedures which remove a layer of melanin from the iris to permanently change its color, BrightOcular claims that its iris implant can easily be removed in case of complications or if the patient wishes.

Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: “Iris implants are marketed on the internet as a safe way to change your eye color but studies of people who have had the procedure show that iris implants can seriously damage eyes and vision.  In one reported case, a patient lost most of her natural irises in both eyes.  As a result, she suffered severe light sensitivity and lost much of her vision.  Iris implants have also been known to cause elevated pressure inside the eye. This can cause cataracts,  glaucoma, injury to the cornea and inflammation of the iris or areas around it, leading to pain, blurred vision, tearing and blindness.  When complications occur, the implants must often be removed by additional surgery, which carries its own risks of damaging the eye.  In one study, nine of 14 patients needed their implants removed.

“The surgery has a purely cosmetic purpose. It does not fix vision defects, so patients will still need to wear refractive instruments to correct their vision.  Proper patient selection is very important for the success of the procedure and to minimise the risks. You must have a careful ophthalmic examination and your ophthalmic tests will need to be evaluated by a surgeon prior the surgery.  It has been reported that most of Tiny’s fans are supportive and thrilled with her new look.  The concern now is that all the publicity could encourage fans to consider undergoing the same procedure and changing their eye colour.”


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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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