Frightening Trends: Eye Jewel Implants

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If you think you’ve seen it all, think again. There is an eerie craze making its way across the globe that has taken the idea of body modification a step too far.

While eye jewellery is a somewhat more common practice, the lesser-known ‘eye jewel implant’ is now beginning to catch wind. Eye jewellery has near to the same medical risks as a basic contact lens because, well, it really is just a ‘blinged up’ contact lens.

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Though, the implanted eye jewel takes on a whole different spin. It involves a piece of platinum jewellery placed inside an incision and under the conjunctiva of the eye. The procedure was first practiced at the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery (http://www.niios.com) back in 2004 and features designs ranging from four-leaf-clovers and music notes, to hearts, stars and moons.

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Right: screenshot of a video of the implant procedure. Left: An example of the platinum impant.

Even back in 2004 the implant was a ridiculously popular trend amongst Netherlands citizens in the city of Rotterdam. Gerrit Melles, director of the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery even boasts that the institute has a waiting list for the procedure.

Since then the trend has made its way to the United States, despite not having FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval. In fact, the FDA states that there’s no “sufficient evidence to support the safety or therapeutic value of this procedure” and that they advise people to “avoid placing in the eye any foreign body or material that is not approved by the FDA”.

One particular case of this surgery has recently hit the news in the US, instigating a collective groan by the viewing audience world-wide. New York’s Lucy Luckayanko paid $3000US to undergo the one-minute procedure all with the intent to stand out from the crowd.

Lucy Luckayanko’s story on Fox 5 News.

After becoming aware of the trend and before Luckayanko underwent the surgery, the Richmond Eye Associates released an article outlining the risks of such a procedure. In every medical procedure (cosmetic included), doctors have a responsibility to calculate whether or not the risks outweigh the benefits and according to R.E.A, they most certainly do. Just some of their concerns are:

“Many metals are extremely toxic to the eye, both externally and internally. Even low concentrations of toxic metals and chemicals could leach into the eye, leading to long-term visual loss”

“It is questionable how refined the edges of the implant are, and what quality control measures are used to determine how the implant is made and how smooth it is. Even the slightest roughness of the edge of this metallic implant may lead to extrusion through the conjunctiva, migration over the surface of the eye under the conjunctiva, and even erosion into the eye. The constant blinking of the eyelids over the implant and the movement of the eye under the lids creates continuous forces onto the implant which would lead to migration or erosion.”

“The implant could migrate into the sub-tenon’s capsule space, where it could subsequently migrate into the orbit behind the eye, making it virtually non-retrievable.”

“Even minimal trauma to the eye over the area of the implant, including eye rubbing, could impale the implant into the eye, creating a surgical emergency with a likely loss of vision.”

“While platinum is generally considered to be inert, any foreign body within the conjunctiva may incite an inflammatory response which may require medical treatment or removal of the implant.”

You can read their full statement at richmondeye.com.

R.E.A also notes that the procedure should take about 15 minutes, whereas Luckayanko’s only took one minute. This may indicate that her procedure was completed with less care than necessary.

Without any medical knowledge, and despite the Luckayanko’s surgeon’s claims, one should know that there is serious risk to the eye. As with any surgical procedure, there is risk of infection and infection in the eye can cause loss of sight.

We live in a society that takes our precious vision for granted; let’s hope, for the sake of vision and sanity, that this trend doesn’t continue to spread.

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