Scleral tattooing is the practice of tattooing the sclera, or white part of the human eye. The dye is not injected into the tissue, but between two layers of the eye, where it spreads out over a large area. The process is not common. Some procedures have caused loss of vision, severe permanent pain, and loss of the eye.
In late 2007, Body Modification Ezine wrote an article describing the first three scleral tattoo procedures performed on sighted eyes. The artist known as Luna Cobra (Howard "Howie" Rollins) experimented on three volunteers; Shannon Larratt, Joshua Matthew Rahn and "Pauly Unstoppable" (aka "Farrah Flawless"). Larratt got the idea after Dutch eye surgeon Gerrit R. J. Melles gave Shannon's then-wife Rachel Larratt an eye implant. She had a small piece of thin platinum jewelry inserted over the sclera, which is the white layer of the eye, and under the conjunctiva, which is a clear layer covering the sclera. The method Melles had developed included injecting a small drop of saline in order to create a fluid filled pocket before inserting the implant into this pocket, which would gradually shrink and leave only the jewelry behind. Shannon then imagined the saline being replaced with ink, which would spread and end up as a colored layer between the sclera and the conjunctiva, giving the white of the eye a new color. Being a fan of Frank Herbert's Dune, Shannon had photoshopped the eyes of his own picture to look like the blue eyes of the Fremen in the novel. He and Luna Cobra then tried to figure out how to color his eyes permanently blue. Eventually Cobra agreed to give it a try if Shannon could find two other people willing to have their eyeballs colored. Luna Cobra tried two different procedures, the first covering the needle with ink and puncturing the eye. This method was deemed unsuccessful, and the second method was attempted. This procedure, in which the sclera was injected with blue dye, was successful. The procedures were “effectively painless because there aren’t nerve endings in the surface of the eye,” says the article's author Shannon Larratt. The aftereffects include “fairly minor” pain, bruising, and some discomfort. Also, the author, who had the procedure performed on himself, seems to have some blisters between the sclera and conjunctiva. The author twice indicates the risks and possible complications, the most important including blindness, of the procedure and warns that it should not be performed without a professional. Scleral tattooing is still a new body modification, and potential longterm effects have therefore still not manifested themselves.
In 2009 the Oklahoma Senate passed Senate Bill 844, filed by Oklahoma Senator Cliff Branan and supported by the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology, to make it illegal to tattoo the sclera of the eye.
- Scleral Tattoo Gone Wrong, Clinical Videos, American Academy of Ophthalmology, By Paul R Freund and Mark Greve, MAY 16, 2017
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- Shannon (2 July 2007). "Three blind mice". bmezine.com. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Bisbee, Julie (20 February 2009). "Oklahoma Senate Panel wants us to make tattooing the eyeball illegal". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Week in Review the Oklahoma Senate." 31 Oct. 2009 <http://www.oksenate.org/>.[full citation needed]