Approximately 17% of the U.S. population has blue eyes, an attribute that many brown-eyed individuals envy. Now a thirty second laser procedure holds promise for those who would savor the opportunity to change their eye color.
In actuality everyone has blue irises but the majority of us have this attribute masked by a layer of pigment its the outer surface. The proposed eye color change treatment is designed to permanently remove that layer of pigment and thus expose the underlying blue colored iris that so many wish they could have.
Stroma is the California company that owns the technology, which requires no incisions or sutures. Patients are only required to maintain visual fixation on an external target while lids are gently parted with an eyelid speculum. The frequency tuned YAG laser procedure takes approximately 30 seconds per eye and is at first followed by some iris darkening followed by lightening of the eye color over a period of two to four weeks. Most patients can return to full activities immediately after surgery that has so far demonstrated good outcomes without ill effects on live patients. Thus far 37 patients have been treated in Mexico and Costa Rica and an extended study is underway which will expand to 100 participants in the near future.
There are major safety issues that will need to be addressed before this procedure will find its way to widespread use. The laser treatment apparently stimulates a mild inflammatory reaction that brings in cells (macrophages) that digest and remove the iris pigment. Many in the ophthalmic community are concerned that this process might obstruct the natural flow of fluid from the eye thus creating an increase in eye pressure and with that, a risk of glaucoma. Clinical studies conducted on those treated thus far have so far not demonstrated this side effect.
It is anticipated that the requisite clinical study outside the U.S will take several years although a spokesman from Stroma claims that a release of the technology for surgeons outside of the U.S. could come as early as late 2017.