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Eye specialists warning on eye-ball tattoos

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) is following with concern the developing issue of eye-ball tattooing in NSW, following media reports on its effective legalisation.

The eye is a highly complex and sensitive organ. Any medical procedure to the eye must be overseen by a trained ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are eye specialists who train for 12 years before they are allowed to perform operations of the eye. The practice of eye-ball tattooing carries large variety of risks, and early evidence suggests that adverse effects are highly likely, including penetrating eye injury and infections of the eye. This means that the practice of eye-ball tattooing carries a high risk of permanent vision loss and even blindness.

RANZCO fellow Professor Minas Coroneo AO, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, warns against this practice, and calls on the NSW legislature to take a firm stand on the matter. “Australia benefits from having well trained and highly skilled ophthalmic surgeons. It is paradoxical that a surgeon would have great difficulty obtaining approval from either an ethics committee or hospital committee to carry this out as a new procedure, yet the procedure can be performed by a tattooist”, said Professor Coroneo.

“One case has been published of eye penetration with injection of dye into the eye and serious loss of vision even after several surgical salvage procedures. There is also evidence of long term problems of inflammation and photosensitivity in patients with skin tattoos and if this experience is replicated in the eye, it is likely to result in loss of vision.”

For more information or to arrange an interview contact Emma Carr or Josie Faunce at RANZCO on 02 9690 1001 and

Last updated: November 29, 2018

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