OCT 04, 2017 05:41 AM PDT

Botched Sclera Tattoo Nearly Blinds Model

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
3 5 964

Scleral tattooing | Image credit: Wikipedia.org

PSA: Having colored eyeballs is never worth losing your eyesight. A Canadian model recently learned this lesson the hard way after a botched “sclera tattoo” nearly blinded her right eye.

When 24-year-old model, Catt Gallinger, asked her then boyfriend to “tattoo” her eyes, she thought this would be yet another way she can express her identity. She already sports 25 skin tattoos, and has also undergone surgery to split her tongue.

“Body modification is something that is growing more popular every day. It’s a big part of my life,” she told TIME. “I have a lot of my friends who have had [sclera tattoos] done and have had it done well. It was something I was interested in.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), a sclera tattoo is done by injecting ink between the eyeball and the conjunctiva, a clear membrane that covers the whites of the eye. The intended result is the permanent coloring of the whites of the eye. Black is reportedly a popular ink choice, perhaps because it results in eyes that are completely opposite to what we would normally expect.

Gallinger’s then boyfriend is described as a body modification artist. And it seemed natural that he would be the one to permanently color her eyes purple, so as to make the greens in her eyes pop even more.

The AAO strongly advises against sclera tattoos, as the procedure is not regulated and the side effects are not well-studied. As such, artists who perform these procedures are not properly trained, which compounds the potential adverse effects.

Image: Catt CallingerAnd, unfortunately, Gallinger had a first-hand experience with all that could go wrong during her procedure. The artist injected the too big needled far too deep into her eye. The ink was too concentrated (undiluted with saline) and the volume of the injection of too high (instead of small incremental injections, her eye was hit with one huge injection).  It was a botched procedure marked by too much inexperience, and too little caution.

“That night my eye swelled shut,” Gallinger recalled. “It hurt. It burned. At its worst, it’s like having a migraine and then also being punched in the face at the same time.”

In addition to pain, she also had blurry vision, and her eye oozed excess purple ink. “Everyone I knew, they healed within a week maximum. I was going into week three. I was like, ‘This isn’t right,’” she said.

At the doctor’s office, she was put on antibiotics to prevent infection, and steroids to relieve eye pain. Doctors say her vision will likely not return to normal, even after having surgery to remove the ink.

"I will have to see a specialist and am at risk of being blind if it doesn't get corrected," Gallinger posted to Facebook on September 20.

The ordeal is much more than Gallinger bargained for. “It’s taken a big toll on my mental health,” she said.

As for the body modification artist who was her boyfriend, Gallinger wasn’t shy about putting some blame on him. She accused him of pressuring her to have the procedure before she had done thorough research. “I’m not forgiving him. I won’t be leaving it alone,” she said. “I want him off the streets before he does something worse to someone else.”

For anyone else contemplating sclera tattoos, know that damages can go beyond pain and blurry vision – you can actually lose the entire eyeball. In one case, a sclera tattoo left one 24-year-old man’s eye so infected and pained that the only recourse left was removal of his eyeball. They subsequently found the ink had traveled as far back as his retina.

"Just please be cautious who you get your [body modifications] from and do your research. I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Gallinger posted to Facebook.

Additional sources: TimeLive Science

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 14, 2018
Neuroscience
MAR 14, 2018
A Surprising Finding in Multiple Sclerosis Research
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a devastating neurological disorder that is thought to be caused by a problem with the immune system. MS causes the body to atta
MAR 28, 2018
Cardiology
MAR 28, 2018
Printed Tattoo Electrodes Transmit Human Heart Impulses
Diagnostic electrodes for measuring electrical impulses from the heart and muscles are uncomfortable for patients and dry out quickly. So scientists from t
APR 15, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
APR 15, 2018
Gene Mutation Associated with Intellectual Dysfunction ID'ed
Researchers has revealed a previously unknown genetic mutation that is correlated with a variety of serious intellectual disabilities.
APR 24, 2018
Cancer
APR 24, 2018
Synthetic Retinoid Shows Promise for Inhibition of Cancer Cells
Researchers studied the potential use of a synthetic retinoid, WYC-209, as an inhibitor of cancer cell growth and metastasis via the retinoic acid receptor pathway.
MAY 05, 2018
Cardiology
MAY 05, 2018
When Low-Risk People Still Get Atherosclerosis
For people with blood pressure, cholesterol, and age associated with a low to intermediate level of risk for heart disease, scientists wouldn’t expec
JUL 19, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 19, 2018
Mom's Microbiome has a Big Impact on Kid's Autism Risk
For many years, scientists have been trying to learn more about the causes of autism.
Loading Comments...