Don’t blink—surgically implanted eyeball jewelry takes body piercing to a whole new level. It was developed in the Netherlands 10 years ago, slowly made its way to Los Angeles, and recently arrived in New York. The technical medical term for eyeball jewelry is extraocular implant. Eye surgeons at the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery created the cosmetic procedure where a tiny piece of jewelry (which they market as “JewelEye”) is inserted under the surface of the eyeball for decorative purposes. The institute’s website says that the implant is completely safe and does not affect visual performance, mobility, or other ocular functions.
The FDA warns patients to avoid having any foreign object placed into the eye that is not proven to be medically safe and approved in the US. Following suit, the American Academy of Ophthalmology released a statement to the effect that they have not seen sufficient evidence to support the safety or therapeutic value of the procedure, citing that if not performed correctly, the procedure could cause blindness due to ocular infection, or other dangers such as bleeding beneath the conjunctiva, perforation of the eye, or conjunctivitis. However, hundreds of extraocular implant procedures have been performed at the Netherlands institute. Patient satisfaction remains high and no side effects have been observed during follow-up visits more than a year after the treatments.
The implant is made from a platinum alloy, typically 0.13 inches (3.5 mm) wide. The shapes currently available include a glittering half-moon, heart, 4-leaf clover, and musical note, but manufacturers can customize any shape desired. Surgery begins with an injection of lidocaine to numb the eyeball. A speculum is applied to keep the eye open during the procedure. Then, small scissors are used to make a tiny incision between the sclera and the conjunctiva, and then the scissors are used to create a pocket. Next, the jewelry is placed inside the pocket. The incision is so small that stiches are not required to seal it.
A 25-year-old woman, Lucy Luchayanko, was the first patient to have the eye-opening surgery performed in New York. She selected a heart-shaped piece of platinum jewelry to have inserted into her eyeball and loves the results. “It’s really small, really tiny, really cute,” she beams. Lucy reports that her new look is an instant conversation starter; she feels her eye implant is elegant and that it makes her unique. Every time she looks up, her platinum heart glimmers from the corner of her right eye as the light catches the jewelry beneath her long dark eyelashes. When asked if it hurt, Lucy said: “You don’t feel anything.”
Lucy’s ocular implant surgery was performed by eye surgeon Dr. Emil Chynn, who is an advocate of the cosmetic procedure and owns Park Avenue Laser Vision in Manhattan. “To me, this is just another way to advance the science of ophthalmology,” says Dr. Chynn, who traveled to Amsterdam to learn the procedure firsthand. He markets his services under the name “Safe Sight Jewelry.” The cost for the procedure performed by Dr. Chynn is $3000, with a guarantee to patients that if they have second thoughts, he will remove the implant for free within 1 year of insertion. If patients get bored with the shape they’ve selected, they can swap out one shape for another—for $1000. Dr. Chynn reports that since his first ocular implant surgery on Lucy, he receives about 1 inquiry a day from people interested in the procedure. So keep an eye out; you may see more people with eye bling, which now gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: “The apple of my eye.” It may not be for everyone, but as they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
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