Are you a brown-eyed girl or guy who has always wanted to go blue? Forget the contacts. One doctor says he can make the color change permanent.
Dr. Gregg Homer at Stroma Medical in California announced on KTLA-TV that he had come up with a laser procedure that removes the brown pigment, known as melanin, in the iris. Once removed, the blue color underneath is revealed, giving the person blue eyes. Homer said the procedure takes about 20 seconds.
“We use a laser that’s tuned to a specific frequency to remove the pigment from the surface of the iris,” he told KTLA.
The change is irreversible because, once removed, the melanin cannot grow back.
Sound scary? Homer says he’s been working on the science for 10 years. He told the news channel that he and his team had 15 ranges of “sophisticated” tests to make sure there is no eye tissue damage during or after the procedure.
Homer predicted the procedure would be on the market outside the U.S. in 18 months and available here in three years.
Homer apparently sees his technique as more than a surgical procedure.
“The eyes are the windows to the soul, [there's] this idea that people can actually see into it — a blue eye is not opaque. You can see deeply into it, and a brown eye is very opaque, and I think that there is something meaningful about this idea of having open windows to the soul,” Homer told KTLA.
Ouch. We brown-eyed folks might have some dirty window panes preventing others’ looking into our souls, but it might be best to keep our souls invisible and stick with what our genes gave us.
Lasering the iris to destroy the brown pigment to turn it blue is “probably risky,” Dr. Robert Cykiert, associate professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABCNews.com.
“When you burn the brown pigment away with a laser, the debris that is created in the front of the eye — think of it as ashes resulting from burning anything — is likely to clog up the microscopic channels in the front of the eye, known as trabecular meshwork,” said Cykiert. “[It] is very likely to cause a high pressure in the eye, known as glaucoma.”
In some patients, this high pressure might be temporary, he said, but in others, it could be permanent. Glaucoma is a disease that can cause serious permanent loss of vision.
Cykiert also said that burning large amounts of brown pigment is likely to cause inflammation and potential damage to the cornea. The procedure could also bring on cataracts, depending on the severity of the inflammation.
Dr. Ivan Schwab, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine and clinical correspondent at the American Academy of Ophthalmology, also has his doubts. He said several long-term studies should get under way before Homer offers the procedure to the public.
“These risks take time to develop, so they may not develop in the first year or two. It could take five or 10 years,” said Schwab. “If a large number of people were to undergo this procedure, and it caused these problems down the road, we’d have a major public health problem on our hands.”
“We are lucky to have the sensory abilities of vision,” said Schwab. “I’d let someone operate on my eyes if I had a problem, but I wouldn’t go asking for trouble.”