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There are two different surgical procedures to change eye color. But neither are approved in the United States.
Over time, many people’s eyes change slightly. However, if you want to make a drastic change without waiting decades for a gradual shift, you have a few options.
The first option is to undergo iris implant surgery. This procedure was originally developed to treat medical conditions and traumatic eye injury. When used to change eye color, it is called cosmetic iris implant surgery.
In iris implant surgery, the doctor makes a small incision into the cornea and inserts synthetic iris implants made of silicone. Some people opt to undergo this procedure specifically to change their eye color. They have no medical need for implants and want cosmetic iris implants just to permanently change their eye color.
The use of this surgery for cosmetic purposes is not approved by US health officials. The procedure is not deemed safe when done purely for cosmetic purposes because there are so many risks. Some of the countries that offer iris implant surgery include China, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, and Tunisia.
The second option is eye color laser surgery. This procedure uses a low-energy laser to remove pigment from the eye. It turns brown eyes blue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved color laser surgery, but the procedure is undergoing clinical trials at the Stroma Medical Corporation. Many eye health professionals consider this procedure high-risk.
Finally, you can change your eye color by using color-changing contact lenses. These lenses are similar to regular contact lenses but do not always offer vision correction.
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There are two surgical options to change eye color: iris implant surgery and laser eye color change surgery. Neither option is approved for use in the United States.
Risks of these procedures include:
Eye color change laser surgery is currently undergoing clinical trials at the Stroma clinic. This procedure uses a low-energy laser beam to heat the brown pigment on the surface of the iris. The heating removes the brown pigment, leaving behind blue or green, depending on the natural undertone of the patient’s entire iris.
Patients undergoing Stroma do not get to choose their eye color, but doctors can tell someone in advance whether their eyes will be green or blue after the procedure. This is because they can see the color “beneath” or “behind” their natural brown eye color.
It is also possible to undergo a saturation treatment after Stroma laser surgery to deepen the initial result that has a light blue, grayish tinge to a deeper blue or green.
Based on the limited amount of data from people who have undergone eye color changing surgeries, the procedures do leave patients with different eye colors.
With iris implant surgery, the color of the iris doesn’t actually change, but it appears to have changed. This is because the synthetic or artificial iris implant blocks the natural color of the eye. This is the only option for people with blue eyes, green eyes, or any other eye color that is not brown.
The laser procedure actually does create a change because it removes color from the eye. This change is permanent and the color cannot be added back into the eye once it is removed by the laser.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), eye color change surgeries are not safe.1
In 2014, the organization issued a statement against iris implant surgery. It stated the procedure puts patients at risk of severe eye complications, including blindness. It also warns that despite the growing trend to undergo eye color changing procedures, there are long-term risks associated with the procedures.
Unlike iris implant surgery, the laser removal of color from the eye has no medical use despite the safe use of lasers for vision correction or refractive surgery.
Both types of eye color change surgery trigger many side effects and risks. These include:
In addition to serious problems following eye color change surgery, many patients also experienced:
The positive aspect of color change procedures is that they do accomplish the initial goal: altering one’s natural eye color. But many eye health professionals agree the benefit of an eye color change is not worth the risk.
The cost of surgically changing your eye color varies from $4,000 to $10,000. The cost is based on the clinic, the surgical equipment used, and the skills and experience of the doctor performing the surgery.
Laser eye color surgery permanently changes eye color. You cannot restore the brown color in your eyes once you’ve changed them to blue or green unless you use color-changing contact lenses.
Iris implant surgery does not change the color of your eyes. It blocks the color, so people see a different color when looking at your eyes. The change can be reversed by removing the implant.
Many eye health professionals do not consider either eye color change surgeries safe. Although the procedures are effective in altering natural eye color, the risks far outweigh the benefits.
Instead, doctors encourage patients who would like to change their natural iris or eye color to consider color-changing contact lenses.
However, there are also risks with this option. If you opt for colored contact lenses, it’s best to work with an experienced optometrist who can help you choose the safest and most effective lenses.
Colored contacts are available from cosmetic and retail outlets, but not all of these offer reputable or safe products. Although the risks are not the same as the surgical procedures to change eye color, there are risks of wearing color-changing lenses that are not suited to your eyes.
Risks of using color-changing contact lenses include:
(1) “Iris Implant Surgery to Change Eye Color Can Be Dangerous, American Academy of Ophthalmology Warns.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 31 Oct. 2014.
(2) Judkis, Maura. “Laser Surgery Can Change Your Eye Color: Do You Want It To?” Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2011.
(3) “Is Eye Color Determined by Genetics?: MedlinePlus Genetics.” Medlineplus.gov.
(4) STROMA. “Change.” Stroma Medical.
(5) American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Why Are My Eyes Changing Color?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 28 Feb. 2019.
(6) American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Cosmetic Iris Implants Carry Risk of Permanent Eye Damage, Vision Loss.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 13 Mar. 2017.