Purple tears from purple sclera! Catt Gallinger Example


On 5th of September 2017, a 24-year-old Canadian model, Catt Gallinger, unknowingly made an unfortunate decision of getting her right eye tattoed. This is popularly known as ‘scleral tattoo’ or ‘eyeball tattoo’. Scleral tattooing involves injecting the ink just under the surface of the conjunctiva. A very high level of precision is required by an experienced hand to direct needle tip at the correct place, a little budge here and there can leave the eye blind. Catt was among the unfortunate ones. The purple ink of her dye started to build up inside, causing swelling, blurred vision and pain. The ink then escaped as tears through her eyes.

Scleral tattooing was first developed around ten years ago by an American body modification artist, Luna Cobra. Late Shannon Larratt was one of the initial three volunteers who go experimented upon by Cobra. Rachel Larratt, Shannon’s then-wife got an eye implant i.e. a small jewellery piece made up of titanium, from a dutch ophthalmologist, which coined this idea in Shannon’s thoughts. Although usually, eye implants have a whole different set of medical indications, scleral tattooing and jewellery implantation have no indication except for aesthetic satisfaction. It was then that Cobra and Larratt took it a spet ahead to make the eyes look blue. Larratt, along with two other volunteers, had minor side effects including pain, discomfort and some bruising. The procedure itself is painless as the conjunctiva has no nerve endings.

A clinical professor of surgery at Brown University, Rizutto, says: ‘Like a tattoo on your arm or hand, sclera tattoos involve placing ink within the skin’. He added: ‘It’s as permanent as any tattoo.’

Soon after, the desire to have ‘fairy tale-eyes’ started to gain popularity. This enabled many untrained and naive artists to take advantage. A high-risk procedure, when done by untrained and inexperienced personnel carries an even higher risk of morbidity, the dominant being blindness in this case.

The Canadian model ended up in a maze of multiple hospital visits despite being particularly mindful of the after-care. Antibiotic drops were prescribed for the next fifteen days after the tattoo followed by steroids which helped with the swelling. Swelling around her eye took a week before it gradually faded away.

Right after eyeball tattoo
Image Source: Facebook
Couple days after eyeball tattoo
Image Source: Facebook

Though some people have successfully gotten away with their coloured scleras, this doesn’t eliminate the risks nor legalises the procedure. Since scleral tattooing was devised by non-medical personnel, it has neither been approved nor been studied. The following risks can be experienced either immediately or over time:

  • complete blindness
  • visual impairment
  • Retinal detachment
  • Endophthalmitis, infection and inflammation of the eye due to ink
  • Photophobia
  • Gritty sensation
  • Discomfort
  • lacrimation
  • loss of the affected eye.

The risks it carries might not be rectifiable; It is not possible to crawl back in time once the sequence of complications post-tattooing kick in.

Catt, despite being unfortunate, was lucky enough to not end up in complete darkness. Though till date, she has mild symptoms, But blindness spared her, that’s not the case with everyone. A 24-year-old man in 2017 got a sudden, painful visual loss during the tattooing process and eventually had to get his entire eye removed due to intractable pain and infection. His retina, vitreous, virtually the whole eye was found to be stained with the ink.

How Catts eye looks now
Image Source: Facebook
The image above shows how her sclera looks now.

So better be safe than sorry. If the heart uncontrollably desires colourful eyes, get a pair of coloured costume contacts prescribed by your ophthalmologist.


Gudgel, D. (2019, May 15 ). Eyeball Tattoos Are Even Worse Than They Sound. Retrieved from American Academy of Ophthalmology: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/eyeball-tattoos-are-even-worse-than-they-sound
Original post: https://www.facebook.com/CattMarley/posts/1723341904640490

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Dr. Arsia Hanif has been a meritorious Healthcare professional with a proven track record throughout her academic life securing first position in her MCAT examination and then, in 2017, she successfully completed her Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Dow University of Health Sciences. She has had the opportunity to apply her theoretical knowledge to the real-life scenarios, as a House Officer (HO) serving at Civil Hospital. Whilst working at the Civil Hospital, she discovered that nothing satisfies her more than helping other humans in need and since then has made a commitment to implement her expertise in the field of medicine to cure the sick and regain the state of health and well-being. Being a Doctor is exactly what you’d think it’s like. She is the colleague at work that everyone wants to know but nobody wants to be. If you want to get something done, you approach her – everyone knows that! She is currently studying with Medical Council of Canada and aspires to be a leading Neurologist someday. Alongside, she has taken up medical writing to exercise her skills of delivering comprehensible version of the otherwise difficult medical literature. Her breaks comprise either of swimming, volunteering services at a Medical Camp or spending time with family.


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