A patient presented to my clinic this week and wanted me to share her story so that others could avoid her predicament. She had surgery to change her eye colour in 2012 by a company in Turkey. It seems this surgery is also performed by the same company in Tunisia. The patient has had recurrent episodes of inflammation in both eyes for the last 2 years and is very sensitive to bright light. Her eyes are often red. She has now developed glaucoma and a cataract in one eye. Corneal endothelial cell counts are reduced in both eyes and there is early corneal failure and swelling in one eye. I have now scheduled her for removal of both implants in the next few weeks. Her vision is reduced due to cataract. I have warned her that she may still require a corneal transplant or cataract surgery even after implant removal.
Cosmetic implants to change eye colour were first developed by a surgeon in Panama but were discontinued due to the huge number of problems, some leading to permanent damage that occurred in these patients. Since then other companies have sprung up in Turkey and Tunisia that claim to be implanting a newer type of implant. Little is known about this implant as there is no published medical literature.
Cosmetic iris implants are not approved for use in the UK, USA or Europe. Artificial iris implants are used for medical conditions such as aniridia or iris loss due to trauma but are not recommended by the manufacturer for use in normal patients for cosmetic purposes. According to my patient she was not informed of possible complications that could arise from these implants including blindness. She is now planning legal action against the company but it is questionable whether patient/consumer laws will be upheld in non-EU countries. Moreover there is likely to be permanent damage to her otherwise healthy eyes.
Individuals looking to change their eye colour should think long and hard about the potential consequences of this type of surgery. Your eyes are precious, look after them!