For some people, corneal tattooing is possibly the craziest thing a person can do. Not only does it look gruesomely painful, but also dangerous. Just imagine a needle in your eye. There is also a great risk of infection and other complications due to the different levels of tattooists’ expertise or lack thereof.
However, this extreme form of tattooing is almost as ancient as traditional tattooing. Galen of Pergamum, a Roman physician and philosopher, first described corneal tattooing in 150 A.D. and so did Aeitus in 450 A.D.; as an attempt to mask the Leukomatous opacities of the eye. These physicians would cauterize the corneal surface with a heated medical probing tool. After the cauterization, they would apply the dye to the eye, using a variety of dyes, such as powdered iron; or pulverized pomegranate bark mixed with copper salt. This would then stain the cornea, correcting the cosmetic appearance for the patient. Other sources have mentioned that Galen might have used Copper Sulphate. This procedure was probably only used on those patients with an unsightly corneal Leucoma.
Nowadays, the leading reason for corneal tattooing is to alter the appearance of the eye cosmetically. Usually, the need for this alteration stems from corneal opacities. Corneal opacities refer to the scarring of the cornea which creates opaque or semi-transparent areas on the eye. These can be caused by Leucoma, Keratitis and Cataracts – all fairly common eye conditions. The opacities can be cosmetically disruptive for patients in their everyday lives. By tattooing the eye, patients can have a more normal look as the colors are blended to diminish the contrasts. Physicians in general agree that this procedure is to be performed on patients that have already lost vision or do not expect visual recovery. There are recorded cases in which corneal tattooing has improved the sight of the eye.
And there is the aesthetic factors that one person may have to get such a procedure done. As permanent as tattoos could be, considering the growth in popularity of tattoo removal parlors; this procedure is as irreversible as time itself.
To those who have successfully survived such procedure, kudos. We celebrate your individualism and courage. For those who consider this practice a bit extreme, it is perfectly understandable. As we always recommend, risking your health, or sight, merely for cosmetic reasons might not be everyone’s cup-of-tea and good research is always the best tool when debating on such decisions.
A brief research in the Southwest Florida area confirmed that there are no known tattoo parlors practicing corneal tattooing.