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In the past, people were at the mercy of genetics when it came to how they looked. After all, DNA has a complete hold over genetic make-up in a person from their hair color to body build all the way down to the color of their eyes.
When it comes to eye color, it’s been hard to change unless you are a fan of sticking colored contact lenses in your eyes for a subtle change. However, contacts come with their own set of risks and can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, leaving them without options when it comes to eye color preference. In the near future, though, that might change with blue eye surgery.
Blue eye statistics and history
According to statistics, roughly 17 percent of people born in the world are born with blue eyes and every single person with the ocean-hue peepers is related to the same ancestor that started it all. According to new research on the topic, the genetic mutation that caused blue eyes began only 6,000 to 10,000 years ago in a single person.
The mutation caused a change in the OCA2 gene, introducing the world to the new shade by changing the body’s ability to produce the right amount of melanin that causes brown eyes. Essentially, blue eyes are just a watered-down version of brown eyes, so to speak.
Colored eyes may not even exist, though
In the sense that you can see a blue eye, they’re as real as eyes come, but the color itself could just be a trick of the mind — or a trick of the light. The iris of the eye doesn’t contain any actual color, so the hue and saturation of blue eyes are based solely on how visible light enters the iris and reflects back out.
The eye is made up of gray collagen fibers referred to as stroma fibers. These gray fibers determine what color the eyes appear to be by either containing or not containing any pigment. In deep, dark eyes, they hold more pigment and in eyes that appear blue, they have none.
What is blue eye surgery?
For people that are tired of looking in the mirror at their melanin-full irises, they have the option to change their eye color permanently with no vision prescription required. Blue eye surgery is a cosmetic surgery that’s similar to the laser surgery that people often get to rid themselves of their need to wear glasses.
The surgery was first introduced by Stroma Medical, a California-based company that offers the procedure, currently running in clinical trials. Their website states that “just beneath the darker pigment lies your unique shade of blue or green.” They want to help their customers achieve their desired eye color in under a minute.
How the procedure works
All eyes are technically brown, but other colors including green, hazel, gray, and blue are hidden underneath in the way that light gets reflected out of them. The body’s production of melanin in the iris and the amount of light that is reflected is what brings out the color you see in the mirror every day.
Dr. Gregg Homer is the creator of the cosmetic procedure. He, along with his team at Stroma Medical, patented their Stroma Laser technology to bring out everyone’s unique blue eyes.
Their website states that the procedure is virtually pain-free and is done by a licensed doctor in an exam room. They take their laser and modify the pigment in the eye by heating it up and letting it cool quickly, in rapid succession, to help raise and lower the pigmented color until the blue eye beneath reveals itself.
After the laser, the body does the rest of the work by getting rid of excess pigment.
The process is quick…sort of
The time spent in the chair with the laser heating up the pigment in the eyes takes less than a minute per eye, but the procedure isn’t finished when you get out of the chair. The initial laser helps to break up the pigment in the eye so that it is expelled from the body.
Right away the eyes will have a more grayish hue due to the destruction of pigment. Following the procedure, more pigment gets expelled from the body and over the course of around three weeks, the eyes continue to discard the pigment and a darker and deeper hue of blue will reveal itself.
You can see it for yourself
Prior to having the procedure, Dr. Homer and his team made it possible to see your own personal outcome with the use of state-of-the-art technology. After all, every person will have a different result because the unique blue hue and how the eye responds to the procedure will be completely personalized.
The technology predicts how the color will look based on certain anatomical factors, including the natural pigment in the eye, the gray stroma fibers, and the amount of light that reflects out of the eye. This technology will help give the patient a better idea of the outcome of their cosmetic choice depending on how their eyes will respond.
What happens pre- and post-op?
Prior to getting the procedure done, the patient doesn’t have to do much in the way of eye care beyond their usual routines. On the day of the appointment, the patient will be made to take a Tylenol prior to the procedure as a preemptive strike against a possible headache. A topical anesthetic will be given to help numb the area.
Following the procedure, it’s recommended that driving at night be avoided for at least a day because of pupil constriction caused by the eye drops used. Antibiotics will also be given to avoid any potential infection from the laser.
Blue eye surgery risks
The procedure is relatively new — so new, in fact, that the safety of the eye color-changing procedure isn’t fully known. The studies that are being conducted by Stroma Medical on the patients that have been treated haven’t been completed yet. The procedure itself isn’t yet available to the public because it is still in its infancy.
Blue Eye Surgery – Laguna Beach based Dr. Gregg Homer is an optometrists with an unbelievable proposition for people… http://t.co/xmBu3lLj
— cnnrss (@cnnrss30) November 2, 2011
Some other doctors have suggested that the procedure itself is dangerous and can lead to harmful after-effects, such as pigmentary glaucoma, but Stroma Medical insists that no reports of the condition have been made following the procedure.
Is the surgery worth it?
Considering the fact that there are very limited studies and clinical trials to go off of in terms of how safe it is, it might not be the greatest idea to jump to the front of the line. The procedure will be in testing for at least another year before it can even be approved in the U.S.
Also, taking into account that contact lenses are widely available and come in an entire rainbow of colors, it might be a good idea to steer clear of any cosmetic procedures to get those blue eyes you’ve always dreamed of until more information is available and the risks are clearly outlined.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
- Seeing the twilight zone in technicolor through deep-sea fish eyes | Science 101
Seeing in the dark isn’t easy but for deep-sea fish, it’s an evolutionary phenomenon.
- Why people have blue eyes and why they’re a dying breed | Science 101
Blue eyes might be on their way out of the rotation in a few hundred years.