What To Know About The Risks Of Scleral Tattooing

Discover the potential health risks of injecting tattoo ink into your eyes.

Written by Manjari Uppal, MSc
Edited by Eshna Das, BA, MSc
Fact-checked by Joyce Joyson, MA (Mass Communication & Journalism)  • 

Scleral tattooing has gained attention globally for its unconventional aesthetic appeal. It is a niche type of body modification that involves injecting ink into the white outer layer of the eye known as the sclera. Commonly referred to as eyeball tattooing, this experimental procedure has sparked debates due to its potential risks. While enthusiasts view it as a unique form of self-expression, the procedure can cause bleeding, infections, blurred vision, retinal detachment, or decrease in vision. Therefore, one must carefully consider the risks before going for it. Read this article to explore what is scleral tattooing, the dangers associated with it, and some precautions to keep in mind before going for the procedure. Scroll down to know more about this controversial procedure in the world of cosmetic body modification.

What Is Scleral Tattooing?

A woman getting a scleral tattoo
Image: IStock

Scleral tattooing involves using a needle to inject water-based tattoo ink between two layers of the eye—the sclera and the conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the sclera). The ink is strategically placed to allow the pigment to gradually spread and cover the sclera. Unlike traditional tattoos, the aim of scleral tattooing is not to create a design but to change the color of the eye. This extreme form of body modification is considered a bold expression of individuality.

Orylan, a YouTuber, shared her eyeball tattooing experience in her video. She said, “I got my eyes injected with ink six months ago. I am perfectly fine. I can see great. I am not blind. I had astigmatism in my eyes before this. That means it’s like little bumps in your eyes. I believe the ink fixed that a little bit. I think I see slightly better (i).”

In some cases, medical practitioners such as ophthalmological surgeons may do eye tattoos to correct discoloration caused by eye damage. However, these procedures are rare due to the inherent risks involved.

protip_icon Did You Know?
It is believed that Greek physician Galen was the first to perform eye or corneal tattooing to combat eye diseases in the 2nd century.

Scleral tattooing is a permanent procedure that results in a dramatic alteration of the eye’s appearance. Scroll down to understand what tattooed eyeballs look like.

What Do Tattooed Eyeballs Look Like?

A woman with a tattooed eyeball
Image: Created with Midjourney

Tattooed eyeballs are a bold personal style statement. This eye-catching change is achieved by strategically injecting water-based tattoo ink between the sclera and conjunctiva. Once the ink has spread successfully, the white part of the eye turns blue or black.

The results of eyeball tattooing may be dramatic and striking. However, it comes with potential side effects. Find out what they are below.

Side Effects Of Scleral Tattooing

Woman experiencing eye issues after getting scleral tattoos
Image: Shutterstock

Unlike skin tattoos, scleral tattoos are highly risky. They require very good surgical skills to avoid damaging the eye layers among other issues. Here are the adverse effects of doing this extreme body modification:

  • The sensitive nature of the eye makes it highly susceptible to infections, which can lead to severe vision loss.
  • Incorrect needle placement during the tattoo procedure can increase eye pressure. This may permanently damage the optic nerve fibers, resulting in permanent vision loss.
  • Scleral tattoos may get distorted if the individual undergoes laser eye surgery later in life, affecting how the ink particles are held underneath the sclera.
  • A tattoo artist without formal training may damage the eyes, which may increase the risk of issues such as detached retinas and decreased vision, leading to complete blindness.
  • Injecting the ink between the two eye layers may result in persistent swelling, sensitivity to light, and a constant feeling of something in the eye.
  • It may increase the risk of contracting bloodborne diseases and chronic inflammation.
  • The lack of visibility caused by the sclera tattoo may hinder the doctor’s ability to catch underlying medical conditions.

Eyeball tattooing is a high-risk procedure that may cause irreversible damage and affect your mental health. Check out the next section for what happens when sclera tattooing goes wrong.

A Case Of Eyeball Tattoos Gone Wrong

One well-known case highlights the serious risks associated with eyeball tattooing. Canadian model Catt Gallinger faced partial blindness in 2017 after getting injected with purple ink in her eye. The tattoo artist who is her former boyfriend made several mistakes such as using a large needle and not mixing the ink with saline. This led to a swollen eye, pain, and purple liquid coming out of the affected eye.

Eyeball tattoos carry higher risks than dermal tattoos and demand surgical precision to avoid long-term complications. The next section talks about some important precautions to keep in mind before getting an eyeball tattoo.

Precautions To Take Before Getting An Eyeball Tattoo

Woman getting her eyes checked before getting scleral tattoos
Image: IStock

Eyeball tattooing is a very risky procedure and requires careful thought and consideration before going for it. To ensure your safety and well-being, here are some precautions to keep in mind:

  • Choose A Qualified Professional

Choose a skilled and experienced tattoo artist who specializes in eyeball tattooing. Verify their credentials and check multiple reviews from previous clients before finalizing your choice.

  • Research Thoroughly

Take your time and educate yourself about eyeball tattoo procedure, its potential risks, and the required aftercare. Consult multiple experts and medical professionals to help you understand what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

  • Assess Your Health

Undergo a thorough medical assessment. Discuss your decision with a healthcare professional to ensure you have no pre-existing conditions before going for this procedure.

  • Visit The Tattoo Studio

Visit tattoo studios to ensure that they follow strict hygiene protocols for a safe and comfortable tattooing experience. Remember, sterilized equipment and a sanitary workspace are essential to prevent infections.

  • Talk To The Tattoo Artist

Have a detailed conversation with your tattoo artist about your desired outcome. Clarify the color, intensity, and any concerns you have before opting for this procedure.

  • Understand Aftercare Protocols

Understand the necessary aftercare instructions and follow them to the tee to minimize the risk of complications and ensure proper healing.

  • Go For Regular Check-Ups

Schedule follow-up appointments with your tattoo artist and an eye care professional to monitor your eye health. Early detection of eye issues is key to prompt medical attention.

protip_icon Trivia
Karan Sidhu, a professional tattoo artist, is the first Indian to get eyeball tattoos. It was done by Luna Cobra, the founder of scleral tattooing.

Remember, your health and safety should always come first. Taking these precautions can contribute to a more positive eyeball tattooing experience. However, not following them may cause severe damage to the eye. This leads us to the next question, “Can you get eye tattoos removed?” Scroll down to find out.

Can You Get Eyeball Tattoos Removed?

While traditional skin tattoos can be partially or fully removed through laser removal procedures, eyeball tattoos are considered permanent and cannot be removed. So, if you are considering getting an eye tattoo, remember that it is an irreversible procedure and comes with a host of risks.

Given the permanence of eye tattoos and the risks that come with them, you can also explore some safer alternatives to eye tattoos. Scroll down to find out what they are.

Alternatives To Scleral Tattooing

A woman putting a colored contact lens into her eye
Image: Shutterstock

One of the safest alternatives to eyeball tattooing is getting colored contacts. Costume contact lenses are a non-invasive way to transform your eye color. They come in various natural or vibrant shades that cater to various individual preferences. Whether you need a prescription or not, these costume lenses enhance your look without going for surgical procedures. Consult a qualified eye doctor for the right brand to ensure it is both safe for your eyes before using them.

Eyeball tattooing is a unique way to express yourself. The vibrant change in eye color is achieved by injecting permanent tattoo ink into the sclera. However, it may cause infections and permanent vision problems. While some individuals view it as a bold statement, the risks associated with this extreme practice require careful consideration. Therefore, consult your ophthalmologist and tattoo artist to understand the procedure and risks involved before going for it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does scleral tattooing affect eye movement?

Scleral tattooing does not typically affect eye movement when performed by a skilled professional. However, the tattooing procedure done by an inexperienced tattoo artist may cause complications that might impact normal eye function.

Can scleral tattooing be done on both eyes simultaneously?

Yes, scleral tattooing can be done on both eyes simultaneously. However, it requires precision and expertise from the tattoo artist to ensure a safe and comfortable experience.

Does the type of ink used in scleral tattooing matter?

Yes, the type of ink used in scleral tattooing matters. A water-based tattoo ink is specifically designed for eyeball tattooing. Using commercial tattoo ink or traditional tattoo inks can lead to long-term risks. Therefore, consult a professional and ensure they use safe and appropriate ink for the procedure.

Key Takeaways

  • Scleral or eyeball tattooing requires injecting water-based tattoo ink into the sclera.
  • Infection, bleeding, and vision impairment are some of the risks associated with eyeball tattoos.
  • You can opt for cosmetic contacts as a safer alternative for transforming your eye color without the permanence and risks associated with eyeball tattooing.

Scleral tattooing may be a bold way of expressing oneself. But it comes with a host of potential health risks. Check out this insightful video to understand the risks involved with the procedure before going for it.

Personal Experience: Source

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