We’ve seen face tattoos before—everywhere from the upper eyelid to the inside of the lip—but we’ve never seen anything like this. Cait Gallinger, a model from Ottawa, Canada, recruited her ex-boyfriend to tattoo her eyeball with purple ink. Yes, you read that correctly.
As you can imagine, especially because the “tattoo” wasn’t done by a professional (although the experts we spoke to for this story said no one, even an eye doctor, should be doing this type of ink), the results did not turn out anywhere close to the way Gallinger expected. In fact, the botched procedure—the needle used was too big and inserted too deeply, and the ink was “pure” instead of diluted with saline—could, unfortunately, result in permanent vision loss.
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Gallinger said she rushed to the hospital immediately because she experienced pain and swelling, but that doctors sent her home because they didn’t think something was wrong. At one point, her eye was even leaking purple liquid. (This is the point where we think, what happened to colored contacts?!) Weeks later, she was still experiencing the same issues and visited a second doctor, who Gallinger says was horrified.
Yesterday, Gallinger posted an update on her Facebook account, writing: “Okay so we’re very close to week four and tomorrow I have an appointment again at the eye institute to see where we are at. Friday my eye was very painful and irritated, but I started my new meds and so on Saturday the pain had receded a bit and became more bearable. My vision is blurry and there are doubles sometimes. As of today the pain is less and some ink was coming out in the residue again. It’s irritated almost always and is back to being very light sensitive, partly as a side effect from the Cyclogyl (which keep my eye dilated). It’s darkening more and more in the skin on my eyelid. I will post an update tomorrow as to where we stand. *Updates are to raise awareness and to educate.”
We reached out to two experts in the fields of ophthalmology and oculplastic surgery to get their insight on what a scleral tattoo is and what can happen as a result of getting one.
“Scleral tattooing is a relatively new yet extremely dangerous practice of depositing ink in or on top of the white layer of the eye called sclera with the purpose of changing its color,” explains New York oculoplastic surgeon Irene Gladstein, MD. “This is a very dangerous practice that could potentially lead to eye infection and ultimately permanent loss of sight. Though self-expression is important to who we are, please choose a safer way of doing so. Scleral tattooing is just not something that should be on your beauty bucket list.”
Largo, FL, oculoplastic surgeon, Jasmine Mohadjer, MD, says it is possible that a particle of pigment may have caused a stroke to the artery that feeds this woman’s eyeball. “This type of ‘tattoo’ is not recommended and very ill-advised. The problem is that these things are permanent and no laser can be used or treatment performed to reverse it. It is questionable whether this young woman will regain vision in her eye. It was a terrible terrible decision by all involved.”
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