You’ve heard of laser-eye treatment making contact lenses redundant for those who have poor eyesight. Well now there’s laser-eye treatment for those who wear contacts out of vanity. If this new medical procedure makes it out of clinical trials, you’ll be able to permanently change your eye colour.
Every person has blue irises, it’s just that for some people there’s a layer of pigment covering the blue – specifically the pigment melanin. Broadly speaking, the more melanin present in your irises, the darker they become – high-melanin eyes are brown, medium are green, while low melanin irises are blue.
Strōma Medical Corporation, a company operating in California (where else?), have developed a laser that disrupts the layer of melanin present in the iris, causing the body to disperse the pigment present in the eye.
For the first week or so following the procedure, the irises will get darker. Thereafter, they will grow progressively lighter, revealing the underlying natural blue colour. The full colour change process should take two to four weeks following the procedure.
At this point, you’ve probably got some pretty serious alarm bells ringing. Shooting a laser in someone’s eye to break up the melanin in their iris sounds equal parts stupid and dangerous. Strōma are well aware of these concerns, claiming the reason the procedure is not yet on the market is because “Our team’s #1 priority is patient safety”.
How safe is it?
For starters, the risk of infection from the procedure is low as there is virtually no contact with the eye itself. The only part of the procedure which sees foreign objects come close to the eye (besides, y’know, the laser being shot into it) is the application of a topical treatment, and a device to keep the eyelid open.
In terms of the risk of blindness, the laser only comes into contact with the iris, not the pupil, so Strōma believe it will have zero impact on a person’s sight – for better or worse. Furthermore, Strōma have compiled a fairly lengthy PDF outlining the reasons why the procedure will not cause pigmentary glaucoma.
It is an out-patient procedure, with Strōma saying it will only take 20 seconds to complete.
Obviously a procedure such as this is purely for cosmetic reasons, so a couple of potential issues that are worthy of note from that end include the fact that the company can’t reverse the process, at this stage they are only offering to turn brown eyes blue, and that there’s no guarantee your eyes will end up the shade of Elizabeth Taylor blue you want.
The natural underlying colour of an iris is generally blue. In some cases, however, the blue hue is more grey, and in others, the blue hue is more violet. The specific hue of a person’s blue iris depends upon the structure of that particular iris and is unaffected by the Strōma procedure. In order to assist the patient in deciding whether to have the procedure, Strōma Medical has designed a procedure to predict the specific underlying hue of the patient’s blue iris prior to treatment and generate an image of the patient with irises of the predicted hue…
After the procedure, however, many patients will have a so-called “limbal ring”, which is a ring of dark pigment around the outer perimeter of a light iris… If the patient has this feature, there is nothing we can or would do to remove it.
Dr Gregg Homer, the Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer of Strōma, received a patent for the procedure in 2005, and in 2009 Strōma was founded for the sole purpose of getting it on the market.
The procedure has come under fire for being racist – specifically for targeting non-white ethnicities (mention of the fact it works for all colours and nationalities does pop up on the company website a fair bit).
When quizzed on this issue by The Times, Dr Homer replied, “Well, number one, I’m Jewish. So that would be a pretty heavy blow to take.
“I mean, is bleached hair also an ethnic issue?”
When and where can I get it and how much will it cost?
As stated, the whole thing is still in clinical trials. The company said they wanted to practice the procedure on 120 people and then spend a year observing the results.
A recent update posted on the company’s forum by employee ‘Ken’ said, “I am hesitant to give harder figures. The plan is to release around later 2015. There are many factors, so tighter timeframes are undetermined.”
So you could be looking at upwards of another year. Which gives you more time to save up because – spoiler alert – permanently changing your eye colour with lasers ain’t cheap.
Strōma will not be administering the procedure, and as such won’t be determining the price, but they hazarded a guess at $US5000.
As for those who think the procedure is already on the market, while it is possible to get a permanent eye-colour change, these tend to be the result of surgery, specifically by “making an incision in the cornea (the clear front of the eye) and implanting a coloured disc in front of the natural iris”.
What are the results like for cutting open your eye and shoving a coloured disc in front of it? Yeah, not great.