Michael J Kutryb, MD  

Specialties: Ophthalmology, Cataract Surgery, glaucoma

Interests: Ophthalmology
Kutryb Eye Institute - Titusville
Titusville, FL
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Laser to Change Eye Color Could Face Tough Road to Approval

Nov 03, 2011 - 5 comments

     The Headline from yesterday's MailOnline article states that Dr. Gregg Homer from Stroma Medical in California, has developed a laser procedure to make brown eyes blue.  It makes sense that a laser could be developed to target melanin containin cells in the iris and potentially help to break them up, but significant side might be a stumbling block to approval of the technology.  
     Melanin targeting lasers are already in use for other procedures.  In fact, a laser I use frequently, the Lumenis Selecta II laser, is used to reduce intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. The procedure is called SLT or Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty. It uses a special wavelengh of 532 of nanometers, to selectively be absorbed by melanin containing cells in the trabecular meshwork of the eye, the outflow channels that control the eye's pressure.  This laser is effective in improving fluid outflow through the meshwork but it does not lighten the pigmentation of the meshwork due to its lower power.   If a laser could be made to affect those specific cells, it seems possible that a laser could also be made to affect the melanin containing cells of the iris.
     Using currently available  lasers in the eye, we generally use extremely low power levels and ultrashort pulses of energy (3 nanoseconds for the Selecta II laser.)  We do this because, too much laser power can cause significant inflammation.  It is  the quick recovery, limited inflammation and superior safety that make the SLT procedure so popular.  A surgeon might use 100 pulses with a laser spot size of 400 micron.  The total area hit by a treatment would be less than 40 square millimeters with total duration of 300 nanonseconds.  
     Now, contrast using a new iris laser over the intire iris, and you might be looking at roughly a 92 square millimeter treatment area, double the area of a typical SLT treatment.  The amount of power needed to break up the melanin granules, however, might  have to be significantly higher.  This in turn could create inflammation and possibly dangerous elevations in the eye pressure, as all the liberated pigment would tend to clog up the trabecular meshwork.  Perhaps, multiple, low power sessions, could lessen inflammation.   Also, the eye's crystalline lens is located directly behind the iris, so could there be concern that excess laser energy would affect the lens, leading to cataract formation?  Finally, it should be remembered that the melanin pigment does have a purpose in absorbing visible light to improve visual performance and protect the retina from excess light.  Could there be atrophy or thinning of the iris after a prolonged laser treatment, leading to potential loss of vision? These are the type of questions that will have to be answered.
     In summary, while I am certainly no fan of anyone trying to change his or her eye color, it seems plausible that low power, targeted laser energy could, in theory, be used to at least lighten the color of brown eyes. Whether or not a desirable cosmetic result could be obtained, is at present, still unknown.  The treatment would likely have to broken up into multipe sessions and the relative risk of side effects, including glaucoma, cataracts and decreased vision would have to be determined.  

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Avatar universal
by cindylouwho514, Nov 28, 2011
I have brown eyes and have no desire to change my eye color.

Avatar universal
by scQue814, Nov 28, 2011
I notice no mention of turning eyes green--or any other colour for that matter.  Not so sure I'd be on-board.  Give the technology another 20 yrs and maybe I'll jump on-board.  

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by sunilkhera57, Jan 07, 2012
Hi Doctor,

I am 26 M, I got my specticals when I was 12.My spectical number is still increasing,
It's 10+ in rite eye and 4+ in left eye.... IT was started with 0.25 number and increased like 1,2,2.5,3.5 .....
As doctors suggested that it will stop increasing after 22-23, gone through many docs but they says they can't stop it increasing. Having good diet, takeing care of everything but still it's not stoping. Please suggest something, I am loosing my vision...

Avatar universal
by smilliorn, Mar 11, 2015
I saw you followed a similar post about this. My  5yr old daughter  started talking about seeing "sparkles" a few months ago. I feel like pedi doc not taking this very seriously. We did get a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist and saw him yesterday. He saw vision fine both distance (20/25). He did a muscle strength test which was fine. He dilated her eyes and did several exams with that. Said eyes were healthy and to "wait and see". I have a grandmother who started out seeing sparkles and progressively got worse as she aged and then in her adulthood found out she was having seizures. Her sparkles came and went though (with the seizure activity).

My daughter says she sees them all the time, whether eyes are open or shut. She says they are normally centered in her line of sight but if she moves her eyes very fast from side to side she can get the sparkles to track off to the side so she can see clearly what is in front of her. Her account of these sparkles has not changed in the past 3 months, so we do not feel like she is pretending or make believing. I did ask her about double vision bc I have very bad astigmatism and that's the first thing I noticed as a kid. She thought that was cool and for a while started saying she saw double of things but we could tell she was just pretending. She gets frustrated bc she says they are distracting and make it hard for her to practice writing skills as well as interrupts her play.

I just don't know how hard to push her pedi doc for a possible neuro consult or EKG to check for seizure activity. or just wait and see if things change. She doesn't complain of headaches at all. I do get migraines with visual auras though.

Thank you for your time!

Avatar universal
by PaoloRossi, Mar 11, 2015
To be honest, why bother to change the color of your eyes? It's something that your Born with, and messing with your eyes is always a risk. I have had seriously eye problems, glaucoma, retinal detachment. I would give Anything to have healthy eyes, no matter what color they are. Please don't mess with your eyes for cosmetica reasons...

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